Project: Research council

Project Details


Taking a long-haul flight generates more carbon emissions than the average person in dozens of countries around the world produces in a whole year. The figures highlight the disproportionate carbon footprint of those who can afford to fly, with even a short-haul return flight from London to Edinburgh contributing more CO2 than the mean annual emissions of a person in Uganda or Somalia. Emissions from the sector could more than double by 2050 even if planes become substantially more fuel-efficient and airlines save additional carbon by optimising their operations. Currently airlines believe a strategy to promote sustainable growth for the sector is needed, working with national governments towards a zero-carbon future. These figures are mainly affected by the CO2 generated by burning jet fuel. Which is why the major aircraft manufacturers and jet fuel companies are working towards a transition to biofuels. Nonetheless such a transition carries its own technical challenges: biofuels are more prone to microbial contamination and higher water contents. Nonetheless, at the moment there is no diagnostic system within aircrafts or fuel delivery systems to provide the airline companies with informed maintenance data as to when the fuel tank should undergo microbial decontamination or water removal, with these rather elaborate and costly processes done empirically.

This is precisely the aim of this project: to develop the first Lab-on-Chip device providing continuous electronic data on the health of the aircraft fuel tank, in terms of water and microbial content, and thus enabling the airlines to optimize their maintenance but also evaluate the quality of biofuel loaded on the aircraft in any part of the world. This research builds on the Lab-on-PCB manufacturing process developed for integrated biomedical diagnostic microsystems during the EPSRC eFUTURES grant EP/L025450; this process is the only process for integrated Lab-on-Chip device manufacturing compatible with aerospace standards, while at the same time enabling the effortless transmission and storage of digital data via electronic means. To this end, Airbus UK awarded the University a £36,230 seed funding contract, to explore the feasibility of such a system. This IAA grant will enable us to take these preliminary results one step further, towards a fully functional prototype, according to the following technical objectives.
Effective start/end date1/06/2031/03/21


  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council


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