A UK company is working on a technology to reduce the number of contrails produced by airplanes in order to reduce the environmental impact of air travel.
A computer system built by Satavia of Cambridge diverts flights to avoid areas where contrails form.
This process will prevent contrails from forming, thereby eliminating the harmful environmental impact they have.
Satavia claims the technology could eliminate up to 60 percent of the climate impact per flight.
Global air travel accounts for around two percent of all human CO2 emissions, but those numbers pale in comparison to the effects of contrails.
Previous research has shown that contrails are twice as harmful to the planet as carbon emissions from airplanes. They make up around 60 percent of the total climate impact of aviation.
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Contrails form when the soot from the engine is coated with water vapor and then freezes in the atmosphere. In regions with high humidity, this then leads to crystals that form contrails, and these merge with clouds to form contrail cirrus clouds that can last for 18 hours. These clouds prevent heat from escaping and reflect it back to the earth. They act like a huge blanket
Global air travel accounts for around two percent of all human CO2 emissions, but those numbers pale in comparison to the effects of contrails. Contrails are twice as bad for the planet as carbon emissions from airplanes and account for around 60% of aviation’s total climate impact
WHAT ARE CONTRAILS?
Contrails occur when water vapor from an aircraft’s exhaust mixes with the outside air and condenses and freezes.
This forms a temporary streak in the sky that appears to wander from the plane.
They eventually form “cirrus clouds” which contribute to global warming as they reflect less sunlight and trap more at the surface, known as “radiative forcing”.
This acts like a blanket over the planet and stores heat, which contributes to global warming.
Satavia is partnering with Aviation X Lab, a start-up support program, and its technology has reportedly piqued the interest of the RAF and an undisclosed airline.
Contrails, the criss-crossing white lines that scars the sky, are created when unburned pieces of jet fuel carbon are thrown out of the engine and surrounded by water vapor that condenses on them.
In certain areas with high humidity, these water-covered soot particles freeze and form contrails that can merge with natural cirrus clouds.
This forms the thin, unique “Contrail Cirrus” clouds that can last 18 hours.
Contrail clouds reflect heat back to the earth’s surface that would otherwise have migrated harmlessly into space.
With this heat bouncing back, contrails act like a blanket wrapped around the planet, adding to global warming.
But not all flights produce contrails, as their existence depends on certain atmospheric conditions.
In particular, the aircraft must fly through a high humidity zone known as the “ice supersaturation area”.
These thick air zones are very narrow, and Satavia’s model was designed to identify these problematic regions and adjust the course of a flight to fly below or above them.
Previous research by Imperial College London found that changing the altitude at which 1.7 percent of flights fly 2,000 feet would reduce contrail warming by 59.3 percent, with only fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 0.014 Percent would rise.
Dr. Adam Durant, Satavia’s founder and chief executive officer, says his company’s technology works by creating a “digital twin” of the real world.
Atmospheric data is being collected to reproduce conditions from the ground up to approximately 328,000 feet.
“Our model performs around 100 algorithmic calculations over four billion model cells for 26 meteorological parameters every 100 seconds and generates one trillion (1,000 trillion) calculations per simulation day. This is how we define ‘hyperscale,” “he said in a statement.
Contrail clouds reflect heat back to the surface of the earth that would otherwise have migrated harmlessly into space
The software was created with Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and made the huge amount of data available to other researchers.
Michael Wignall, Azure Business Lead at Microsoft UK, said: ‘Microsoft is committed to fighting climate change around the world. not just by our own actions, but also by providing our tools to help others reduce the human-led impact on the planet.
‘By modeling the Earth’s atmosphere, SATAVIA is helping the aviation sector understand more about its environmental impact.
“The Azure cloud platform is designed to handle the large amounts of data that is created, ensuring that information can be analyzed quickly and easily while maintaining complete security.”