Welcome to ALFA-BIRD project


ALFA-BIRD (Alternative Fuels and Biofuels for Aircraft Development) was a project co-funded by the EU in the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, started in July 2008 and ended in June 2012. ALFA-BIRD was an R&D project aiming at viable technical solutions. Its objective was to investigate and develop a variety of alternative fuels for the use in aeronautics, motivated by the need to ensure a sustainable growth of the civil aviation, regarding the impact of fossil fuels on climate change, and in the context of oil prices that are highly volatile and increasing in the long term.

The main challenge in the project work was developing fuels that meet the very strict operational constrains in aviation (e.g. flight in very cold conditions), and are compatible with current civil aircraft, which is a must due to their long lifetime of almost 50 years. To address this challenge, ALFA-BIRD gathered a multi-disciplinary consortium with key industrial partners from aeronautics (engine manufacturers, aircraft manufacturers) and fuel industry, and research organizations covering a large spectrum of expertise in fields of biochemistry, combustion as well as industrial safety. Bringing together their knowledge, the consortium developed the whole chain for clean alternative fuels for aviation. The most promising solutions have been examined during the project, from classical ones (plant oils, synthetic fuels) to the most innovative, such as new organic molecules. Based on a first selection of the most relevant alternative fuels, a detailed analysis of 4 new fuels was performed with tests in realistic conditions.

It covers a number of areas, including:

-    study of possible alternative fuels for use in aviation;

-    chemical analysis of the "best"  fuel;

-    improved formulation of biofuels;

-    new injection systems;

-    modeling of injection and combustion;

-    compatibility with aircraft fuel systems;

-    production of new fuels.


The first fuel selection matrix has been designed around three main axes, covering a wide range of possible alternative fuels from short term to long term:

-    paraffinic fuels, with hydrotreated vegetable oils and synthetic fuels 
     (XtL), in a short / middle term vision

-    naphthenic fuels, representative of new production processes such as
     coal or biomass liquefaction in a middle term vision

-    oxygenated fuels, such as higher alcohols or furanic compounds, in a 
     long term vision.


Several tests including the standard characterization of the 12 blends were used for the final selection of the 4 fuels that have been tested in the second phase (tests on engine components). The 4 fuels selected were FSJF, FT-SPK, a blend of FT-SPK and 50% naphthenic cut, and a blend of FT-SPK and 20% hexanol. This fuel matrix offers the possibility to evaluate the potential of different chemical families which are paraffinic compounds, naphthenic compounds and oxygenated compounds. This is also representative of a short, middle, and long term view. The information collected during the tests have been used to prepare the environmental and economical impact assessment, which was the basis for the elaboration of the future strategy for the use of alternative fuels for aircraft.

A synthesis of the project providing the main outcomes of the project is available here.

Collaboration with other R&D initiatives and networks
Alfa-Bird is collaborating with several other European and International projects:

The Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) aims to promote the development of alternative fuel options that offer equivalent levels of safety and compare favorably with petroleum based jet fuel on cost and environmental bases, with the specific goal of enhancing security of energy supply

The Network of Excellence ECATS is an expert group contributing to environmentally compatible air transport. With initial funding from the European Commission ECATS' scope is to contribute to the environmental goals of the Vision 2020 for Aeronautics and the Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) 

Omega is a publicly funded partnership that offers impartial, innovative and topical insights into the environmental effects of the air transport industry and sustainability solutions 

SWAFEA is a study for the European Commission's Directorate General for Transport and Energy to investigate the feasibility and the impact of the use of alternative fuels in aviation.

DREAM project is the response of the engine community to commercial and environmental pressures that have come about mainly as a result of two main factors: The political pressure to reduce CO2 and the increased cost of Jet A-1 fuel.

Representatives of all these projects have been invited to the Alfa-Bird workshop in July 2011, and will be invited again at the next one, to continue scientific exchanges.