Swiss International Air, which the Lufthansa Group recently bought, is set to become the first airline in the world to use Solar Aviation Fuel (aviation fuel produced from the sunlight). The group supplying the fuel, Synhelion, envisions producing 875 million litres of kerosene solar fuel per year by 2030.

 

Chief Executive Officer at Swiss International Air (SWISS), Dieter Vranckx, stated: 

Our team-up with Synhelion is founded on our shared vision to make carbon-neutral flying in regular flight operations possible through the use of solar fuel.

We are proud that SWISS will be the first airline in the world to fly with solar kerosene. In partnering with Synhelion, we are supporting Swiss innovation and are actively pursuing and promoting the development, the market introduction and the scaling-up of this highly promising technology for producing sustainable fuels.

 

Synhelion has been partnered with the Lufthansa Group and its subsidiaries, SWISS and Edelweiss, since 2020.

 

The Process

Synhelion’s website outlines that the fuel is produced using concentrated solar heat to manufacture syngas, which can then be synthesized into kerosene using standard industrial processes. This sun-to-liquid fuel closes the fuel carbon cycle: when combusted, it will only produce as much CO2 as went into its manufacture. The new fuel thus makes a major contribution to effectively decarbonizing air transport.

Solar Field © Synhelion
Solar Field © Synhelion

 

The kerosene aviation fuel is also said to be more economically viable and efficient in comparison to standard/fossil jet fuel.

 

Synhelion hopes to build a solar fuel plant in Jülich, Germany this year. CEO and co-founder of Synhelion, Dr Philipp Furler, stated: 

 

We believe in a globalized world connected by climate-friendly mobility. 

Our next-generation carbon-neutral solar kerosene is an economically and ecologically viable substitute for fossil fuels. The commitment of SWISS and the Lufthansa Group underlines the aviation sector’s keen interest in our solar fuel. And we are looking forward already to the day the first SWISS aircraft takes off with our solar kerosene. 

 

 

Jet Fuel Process @ Philipp Furler
Jet Fuel Process @ Philipp Furler

 

Swiss also said in a statement that it is hoping to increase its use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) within the next few years. They added, “In view of the limited availability of biofuels, however, alternatives will be required.”

What is SAF?

Sustainable Aviation Fuel is produced from sustainable sources like ethanol and used waste oils and animal fats. There is also up to an 80% reduction in carbon emissions and harmful particles compared to standard jet fuel. To date, more than 150,000 flights have been powered by SAF, with KLM being the first commercial airline to fly using SAF more than ten years ago.

 

Let us know your thoughts about Solar and Sustainable Aviation Fuel in the comments below.

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