Smart Airports: What will the airport of the future look like?

Alternative fuels and intelligent energy sources – researchers at the TU Hamburg are working on sustainable solutions for CO2-neutral flying

According to the European Comission, carbon dioxide emissions from airplanes and airports should be reduced by 2050 and completely avoided in the future. From the beginning of November, scientists from the Technical University of Hamburg (TU Hamburg) will be working on how this can be achieved in the “ALIGHT” project, in collaboration with Copenhagen Airport and fourteen other European partners. The project is part of the international research and innovation program Horizon 2020 and will run until 2024.

Under the title “Smart Airports”, solutions for the realization of a CO2-neutral airport will be developed and the necessary infrastructure will be provided. The “ALIGHT” project is funded by the European Union with almost 12 million Euros, with the partners involved contributing a further three million Euros.

Airports are not yet prepared for new fuels and energy sources

The Horizon project is intended to include, on the one hand, concrete solutions for alternative fuels and, on the other hand, considerations for new airport designs, for example to be able to supply buildings, vehicles and aircraft with solar power. But only a few airports are prepared for new fuels and energy sources. “The current infrastructure is designed exclusively for the fuels used today,” explains dr. Ulf Neuling, team leader for the ALIGHT project at the Technical University of Hamburg. “In addition, there is a lack of suitable procedures for the verification and crediting of sustainable fuels, as these are mostly mixed with fossil fuels. This makes mass use more difficult and leads to high administrative costs.”

Sustainable aviation fuels and sustainable energy production

That is why the project group at the TU Hamburg – Institute for Environmental Technology and Energy Management is working on improving the use of sustainable aviation fuels, among other things. Research focuses on the procurement, mixing and refueling of sustainable aviation fuels, as well as their quality controls and safety measures. In addition, the researchers are concerned with the development of intelligent energy solutions for airport operations, including the company’s own production of sustainable energy as well as energy storage and electrification. Another part of the project is devoted to the development of the airport of the future, which  supports sustainable aviation fuels as well as electricity and hydrogen.

The term of ALIGHT began on November 1, 2020 and will last four years in total. In addition to the TU Hamburg, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the University of Parma, Copenhagen Airport (CPH) and other institutions and companies along the entire value chain are involved.

Another research project at the TU Hamburg: Optimization of flight routes

At the same time, the TU Hamburg is researching the question of how the choice of flight route can reduce the climate impact of a flight. The aim of the international project “Flying Air Traffic Management for the Benefit of Environment and Climate” (FlyATM4E) is to make flying more environmentally friendly and to reduce the effects of air traffic on global warming. Source and further information are available here.