The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued more than $16 million in grants to 14 universities across the country for research to reduce aviation emissions and noise. The university teams are members of the Aviation Sustainability Center (ASCENT, part of the FAA’s Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment.

“The awards we are making today will fund research at universities across the country for a more sustainable American aviation system,” said U.S. Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg.

The FAA awarded a total of 43 grants to the university research teams. Projects focus on sustainable aviation fuel, alternative jet fuel supply chains, electrification, noise reduction, noise exposure, hydrogen propulsion, engine technology, supersonic operations, and environmental measurement. The projects include:

Sustainable Aviation Fuel

  • Evaluate regional alternative jet fuel supply chains and their potential for domestic fuel production and rural economic development: $769,136 to Washington State University, University of Tennessee, Pennsylvania State University.
  • Identify new methods and procedures to produce sustainable aviation fuels with reduced life cycle emissions and costs: $758,026 to Washington State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Evaluate environmental benefits to the climate from sustainable aviation fuels: $800,000 to Purdue University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Conduct testing of novel fuel types to ensure they are safe for use, and support efforts to approve 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel use in existing aircraft: $2,394,940 to University of Dayton, University of Illinois, Stanford University.
  • Measure combustion emission reductions from sustainable aviation fuels: $2,050,000 to Missouri University of Science & Technology

Future Propulsion

  • Understand the challenges and opportunities with hydrogen and battery-powered flight: $460,000 to Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Investigate how fuel injector design and fuel pre-heating could be used to reduce soot emissions from jet engines: $750,000 to Purdue University, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Examine opportunities to reduce noise and emissions through aircraft and engine design: $1,050,000 to Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Air Quality and Noise

  • Conduct analyses to support the development of new more stringent airworthiness standards to regulate aircraft CO2 emissions and noise: $1,890,000 to Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Develop new metrics to quantify nitrogen oxide emission during the entire aircraft mission, including taxi, takeoff, cruise, and landing: $250,000 to Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Measure impacts of aviation emissions on air quality in communities: $549,921 to Boston University.

Detailed descriptions of every ASCENT project and the grant amounts can be found here

The ASCENT initiative is part of a portfolio of solutions to incentivize SAF production through FAA grants and helps to maintain U.S. leadership in reducing aviation emissions worldwide.

Also working on ASCENT projects are teams from these schools: University of Hawaii, University of North Carolina, and University of Pennsylvania.

In November 2021, the U.S. released its first-ever comprehensive Aviation Climate Action Plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Earlier in 2021, the FAA announced more than $100 million in matching grants to increase aircraft efficiency, reduce noise and aircraft emissions, and develop and implement new software to reduce taxi delays. 

The White House also announced its Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge, a government-wide initiative designed to catalyze the production of at least three billion gallons per year by 2030. The recently released Flight Plan for Sustainable Aviation Fuel can be found here.