Alternative jet fuels: Washington State University exhibit to open at Paris Air Show

Vanguard of U.S. efforts in using alternative biofuel focusing wood-based jet fuel

When the 50th International Paris Air Show gets under way June 17, representatives from Washington State University will be here to promote the university’s expertise in developing viable alternative jet fuels before more than 150,000 representatives of the aviation industry from across the globe.

Working out of an exhibition booth at the show’s Alternative Aviation Fuels Pavilion, Ralph Cavalieri, WSU associate vice president for alternative energy, Michael Wolcott, WSU regent’s professor of civil and environmental engineering, and James Petersen, director and professor of the Gene and Linda Voiland School of chemical engineering and bioengineering, will spread the word that the university is in the vanguard of U.S. efforts to use alternative biofuel technologies in the development of economically viable advanced aviation fuels.

“WSU was invited to come to Paris as a result of our growing international reputation as a leader in the development of biofuel technologies,” said Cavalieri. “Aviation is obviously a global activity, and Paris is the place where the international aviation community meets every two years. It gives us a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate our research leadership and interact with all manner of aircraft and engine manufacturers, airline operators and others in the aviation industry.”

Cavalieri said WSU’s message to the aviation industry is that the university’s long land-grant tradition in agricultural research and basic plant science, together with its expertise in technologies to chemically and biologically convert plant materials to drop-in fuels, and wood engineering, provide a natural framework for the development of biofuels from a wide range of plant-based sources.

In fact, overcoming obstacles to develop economically viable wood-based jet fuel and petrochemical substitutes is the focus of a consortium led by WSU that has already brought together scientists from universities, government laboratories and private industry, he said.

Called the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) and funded through a $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the consortium aims to address the need for a domestic biofuel alternative for U.S. commercial and military air fleets. NARA researchers envision developing a new, viable aviation fuel industry using wood wastes in the Pacific Northwest, which has established oil refining and distribution assets as well as a significant aviation industry.

WSU scientists are also exploring the use of algae, perennial grasses, hybrid poplars and oilseed crops such as camelina as sources for biofuel. Other WSU scientists and engineers are developing new catalysis and systems to enable economical conversion of plant materials to aviation fuels. Still other WSU engineers are focused on a variety of bioproduct, infrastructure and environmental needs to improve profitability and sustainability of biorefineries.

Cavalieri said WSU’s presence in Paris this year will complement that of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s Office of Aerospace and the Washington State Department of Commerce. He noted that Washington is home to 1,256 aerospace companies, creating an unrivaled legacy in aviation and space that employs more than 131,000 skilled workers who turn out more than 1,200 aircraft each year.

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– Anyone interested in learning more about the activities of WSU’s team at the Paris Air Show can follow them at or on Facebook at, Cavalieri said.

– A related video, “Washington State: A Living Laboratory for Aviation Biofuels,” is available online at
Robert Strenge, WSU News
Phone: 509-335-3583


Washington State University (WSU), press release, 2013-06-12.


National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA)
US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Washington State University