Our research & capabilities

Any new aviation fuel must undergo significant assessment for comprehensive chemical composition analysis, basic physico-chemical properties (in line with ASTM 4054) as well as fit-for-purpose testing before it can be safely introduced to the market. SAF-IC offers a full spectrum of capabilities to carry out such testing, thanks to its:

  • Clearing house laboratory
  • Small, medium and large-scale thermal degradation testing facilities
  • Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) testing with hydrogen capabilities.

Every large scale test campaign we carry out is bespoke to customer requirements, leading to significant costs savings and development time associated with SAFs, fuel system design, and fuel system hardware as compared to full scale engine testing.

More information about all of those capabilities is below.

Clearing house laboratory

The clearing house facilities assess samples of fuel for chemical, physical and thermal properties, as well as thermal oxidative stability. All of this is driven by adherence to ASTM standards for fuel evaluations for use in aircraft, which means we can ensure new sustainable fuel technologies have been rigorously evaluated prior to large scale production.

Once fuels are being produced at full scale, the clearing house facilities can be used to test fuel samples to ensure that high quality fuel production is maintained and meets the required ASTM standards at all times.

Multi Dimensional Gas Chromatography Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer (TOFMS)

Chemical composition has a strong effect on the performance, reliability and safety of systems that utilise SAFs. The Multi Dimensional Gas Chromatography Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer (TOFMS) is a state-of-the-art instrument for quantification of major hydrocarbon constituents in bulk fuel, as well as trace level of polar species.

A number of basic properties of aviation fuel are linked to the major chemical composition of fuels. In order to relate fuel chemical composition to fuel properties, it is often sufficient to measure concentrations of components in “group-type” separations, where the total saturates, total mono-cycloparaffins, or total alkylbenzenes may be quantified. Many other important properties of aviation fuels are linked to the presence of trace polar species.

Specifications for aviation fuels restrict the concentration of polar species and hydrocarbon classes with detrimental impacts on aero-engine for a number of reasons such as fuel thermal degradation, surface deposition, material compatibility, combustion, fuel consumption, etc.

Using the TOFMS to understand more about the chemical composition of SAFs will help to reduce the instances of these detrimental impacts and create high-quality, efficient fuels.

Fuel thermal stability testing

SAF-IC has extensive capabilities and expertise in fuel thermal stability assessment, from bench scale to large scale, and all in a single research facility.

Fuel thermal degradation occurs when fuels are subjected to elevated temperatures, allowing chemical reactions to take place which can negatively affect components inside an engine, making it less efficient and more likely to break down.

SAF-IC hosts a range of capabilities to assess fuel thermal stability, from small scale tests that enable the fundamental investigation into the relationship between fuel chemistry and thermal stability/degradation, to flowing fuel tests which enable the assessment of fuels in low and medium Reynolds number ranges, whereby flowing fuel effects can be introduced as a step towards the conditions experienced with in-service engines.

Finally, SAF-IC also has capability with a large scale apparatus (TRL 5) to reproduce engine conditions to provide complete investigation of the interactions between thermally degrading fuels and fuel system design and components. Our unique, large-scale TRL 5 facility is able to replicate any modern gas turbine fuel systems and test them as a whole or in a modular fashion by thermally stressing sustainable aviation fuels at constant operating conditions or according to predefined flight cycles.

This facility can run unattended 24/7 and within hundreds of hours it can reliably simulate thousands of operating hours from in-service gas turbines. We can thoroughly investigate SAF thermal degradation and the behaviour of fuel system design and components such as control and metering valves, filters, and elastomers. Doing so can generate significant insight on fuel component performance, fuel system design and fuel chemistry at engine conditions.

APU testing with hydrogen capabilities

In addition to the liquid sustainable aviation fuel capabilities, SAF-IC is designed to accommodate future hydrogen production and storage facilities. These facilities will be used in conjunction with the in-house modified Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) and other facilities to study Hydrogen handling systems, combustion and emission characteristics.

Alongside with the years of academic expertise in testing aviation fuels on APUs, these capabilities allow our researchers to investigate any associated risk and the mitigations required for using Hydrogen as future jet fuel.