It’s hard to imagine how the processes we use in biotechnology overlap with the creation of advanced fuel treatments for airplanes. Putting on their creative hats once again, scientists at Luna Labs are applying an analytical technique we use to monitor biomolecules and drug degradation to jet fuel analysis – an ongoing, unmet need for military and civilian aerospace industries.
Trace amounts of metal in jet fuel can have a negative impact on the fuel’s thermal stability. A decrease in this stability will result in deposits in critical jet engine components which can lead to engine failure.
Aviation specifications allow Metal Deactivator Additive (MDA) to be used to neutralize the trace metal’s effects on jet fuel stability. However, the amount of MDA present in jet fuel must be carefully managed because too much MDA can also lead to engine deposits. While there is currently an ASTM specification for the maximum permissible MDA content in jet fuel, there is not a method to measure it. As a result, it can be exceedingly challenging to reliably evaluate and report on final MDA concentrations at the point of jet fuel delivery.
Using our subject matter expertise in advanced analytical chemistry technique, Luna Labs has developed a method to rapidly detect MDA in jet fuel, similar to how we detect drug degradation in our pharmaceutical studies. We’re adapting this methodology into a portable detection device capable of delivering results in the field in less than 10 minutes.
Principle Investigator, Nikolai Braun (a biophysicist by training), recently attended the ASTM D02 Petroleum Products and Lubricants technical meetings in Denver to update on the progress of this MDA quantification method and device development. As a result, the procedure for writing a protocol for consideration as an ASTM-adopted method was initiated.
Using bioanalytical techniques for aviation performance is another example of how Luna Labs’ cross-functional thinking leads to putting innovative solutions where and when they are needed.
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