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Analysis of Technological Innovation and Environmental Performance Improvement in Aviation Sector

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Author(s): Joosung Lee | Jeonghoon Mo

Journal: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
ISSN 1660-4601

Volume: 8;
Issue: 9;
Start page: 3777;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: aviation energy use | environmental innovation | alternative fuels | biofuels

ABSTRACT
The past oil crises have caused dramatic improvements in fuel efficiency in all industrial sectors. The aviation sector—aircraft manufacturers and airlines—has also made significant efforts to improve the fuel efficiency through more advanced jet engines, high-lift wing designs, and lighter airframe materials. However, the innovations in energy-saving aircraft technologies do not coincide with the oil crisis periods. The largest improvement in aircraft fuel efficiency took place in the 1960s while the high oil prices in the 1970s and on did not induce manufacturers or airlines to achieve a faster rate of innovation. In this paper, we employ a historical analysis to examine the socio-economic reasons behind the relatively slow technological innovation in aircraft fuel efficiency over the last 40 years. Based on the industry and passenger behaviors studied and prospects for alternative fuel options, this paper offers insights for the aviation sector to shift toward more sustainable technological options in the medium term. Second-generation biofuels could be the feasible option with a meaningful reduction in aviation’s lifecycle environmental impact if they can achieve sufficient economies of scale.
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