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I'm a student starting a research project on sustainable aircraft technologies. I've been particularly interested by distributed electric propulsion (DEP), which is currently being tested by NASA with the X-57 Maxwell (I'm thinking the added efficiency of DEP combined with progress in battery technology could eventually make electric flight a more feasible option). My supervisor has also pointed me to ion drives. Are there any other technologies in development that I should be aware of? Information on progress, potential, who is developing the technology, as well as links to scholarly articles are all appreciated.

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  • $\begingroup$ The world seems to have quite a narrow perspective on "sustainability" these days, its all electricity and batteries... I hope you are rigorous in your research, taking into account the vast progress in "traditional" engine tech combined with renewable biofuels. Batteries are really quite far from being truly sustainable option in aviation as they have a horrible energy density. I personally swear by liquid fuels, but I do firmly believe some sort of hybrid solution will eventually conquer air travel. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Jan 28, 2021 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ Not to mention the environmental devastation of battery production and disposal. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jan 28, 2021 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the quick responses! Biofuels do seem like a promising avenue. My only concern is that combustion, even of fuels from alternative sources, would still contribute to rising carbon dioxide concentrations and climate change (the transportation industry, and aviation in particular, is one of the world's largest emitters). Do you know of any liquid fuels that do not produce greenhouse gases? (Aside from liquid hydrogen; from what I've heard it doesn't look too promising.) $\endgroup$ Jan 29, 2021 at 3:25

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You might also consider evaluating Hydrogen-powered aircraft and Biofuel as ways to operate aircraft with combustion engines on alternative fuels that can be produced in a more sustainable manner.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the quick response! I responded to this to some degree in a comment on the question, feel free to continue the thread. $\endgroup$ Jan 29, 2021 at 3:32

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