UNNC scholar’s research on "green taxiing" wins national recognition

11 May 2021

A project on "green taxiing", led by Professor He Zhang, Director of the Nottingham Electrification Centre, has been approved by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of China as an "Intergovernmental International Cooperation on Scientific and Technological Innovation" programme, and obtained a Major-Project funding of RMB 1.76 million. 

Named "REducing AirCraft Taxiing emissIons through energy recoVery and storagE (REACTIVE)", the project is an international collaborative project with Malta, a Belt-and-Road partner country, to establish a world-leading regional aircraft "green taxiing" high-efficiency drive system.

According to Professor Zhang, the aviation industry produces an unimaginable amount of pollution. Studies have shown that ground emissions at LAX International Airport are equivalent to pollution emissions generated by a 1,500 km-long highway. When an aircraft is taxiing on the ground, 300kg of aviation fuel will be consumed in just 30 minutes, which not only accounts for 5-10% of the overall fuel consumption of aircraft in the short-haul region, but also puts pressure on airport scheduling and the environment with air and noise pollution.

Therefore, Professor Zhang approached the University of Malta, with whom he has previously collaborated on the European CleanSky plan. Malta has proposed to reduce aviation ground emissions by 90% by 2035. The University of Nottingham has a long-standing strategic partnership and student exchange programmes with the University of Malta. Therefore, the two sides signed a collaboration agreement to develop green taxiing technology in August 2020.

"Green taxiing technology is key to developing the next generation of regional aircraft," said Professor Zhang. The existing system starts the aircraft's engine on the ground before take-off and controls the taxiing speed by braking. Landing is completed via spoilers, engine launch thrust and brake pads, which is noisy and costly.

The project will take advantages of both parties’ expertise to break through the key design technology for system torque density limit and a world-leading regional aircraft "green taxiing" high-efficiency drive system. This will enable the aircraft to operate efficiently without starting the engine or pushing the trolley while taxiing on the ground and reducing the wear on the brake pads and tyres.

"High reliability is contradictory to high torque density and high efficiency, but we hope to improve efficiency and torque density to a world-leading level through more accurate models, multi-disciplinary integration system and optimised design," said Professor Zhang.

Targeted at reducing fuel consumption, brake pads and tire wearing, as well as increasing the airport operation efficiency, the project is one of the University’s contributing efforts to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Currently, there is an ongoing Research Exhibition titled "Creating a sustainable world" in the Portland Building, the Library and the Sir Peter Mansfield Building, celebrating UNNC academics’ research achievements that contributes to the SDGs. The exhibition includes 31 highlighted research cases, focusing on widely concerned issues such as mitigating the impact of climate change, developing green and sustainable composite materials, utilising digital technology for sustainable cultural heritage and managing sustainable marine systems.