Does Chicken Fat Fly?

NASA's chicken fat-fueled DC-8

Uses for chicken fat: chicken broth, dog food, soap, lamp oil, salve, jet oil.

Jet oil?

Animal fat as biodiesel has been around for years, powering trucks, farm equipment and maybe a high school science teacher’s car. What it has not done is flown.

Until now. NASA is wondering how chicken fat will fly as an eco-friendly jet fuel. To find out, the agency sent two teams to conduct performance and emissions tests.

“The use of alternative fuels, including biofuels, in aircraft is a key element for substantially reducing the impact of aviation on the environment and for reducing the dependency on foreign petroleum,” said Glenn’s Ruben Del Rosario, manager of NASA’s Subsonic Fixed Wing Project, which is conducting the tests.

The teams will measure a 50 percent mix of the chicken fat-laden biofuel with a 50 percent mix of JP-8 jet fuel. A NASA DC-8 will conduct the Alternative Aviation Fuel Experiment II.

“AAFEX II will provide essential gaseous and particulate emissions data as well as engine and aircraft systems performance data from operation of the DC-8 on a fuel produced from a renewable resource,” said Dan Bulzan of NASA’s Subsonic Fixed Wing Project.

As oil prices skyrocket and the focus switches to alternative energy, biofuels are increasingly catching government and corporate attention. The U.S. Air Force is reconfiguring its military cargo and fighter planes for the fuel AAFEX II is testing. Boeing recently convened a research panel to look into biomass as a possible fuel.

AAFEX II is a collaboration between private industry, federal organizations and academics. The Fundamental Aeronautics Program of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate is funding the testing.

If the fuel takes off, expect a round of “Why did the chicken cross the runway” jokes.


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