Thomas and Team Win Judges’ Choice Award from MIT’s Climate CoLab

Posted October 3, 2016

Suriya Arulselvan (MSCE 2015) and Valerie Thomas, professor in Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen College School of Public Policy and the Anderson Interface Professor of Natural Systems in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, were awarded the Judges’ Choice Award for the 2016 Aviation contest from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Climate CoLab. They accepted the award and presented their research at the MIT Climate CoLab’s Crowds & Climate Conference, September 28 - 29, 2016, on MIT’s campus.

The pair submitted their proposal, “Strategic Investment to Scale-up Aviation Biofuel,” to the Climate CoLab’s Aviation contest category. They proposed that one large country (the United States, China, or Brazil) or coordinated region (e.g., the European Union) intensely ramp up aviation biofuel production, along with associated coproducts such as diesel fuel, to a level of about 120 million tons of biomass by the year 2030. They specifically focused on the feasibility of China contributing to this initiative.

Emphasizing technology development for aviation biofuel within a particular country would result in gaining expertise in the most efficient pathway. Plausible ways to develop a stable supply and demand for biofuel include the following:

  • Collaborating with neighboring countries to establish an efficient supply chain.
  • Working with suppliers and airlines that are taking initiatives to use biofuel.
  • A common fuel distribution system can be established in the airports of China, similar to the bio-ports implemented in Amsterdam, Holland and Oslo, Norway. This way all the operators flying into these airports will be refueled by biofuel.
  • With the European Union including the aviation industry in its emission trading system since 2012, a strategic alignment could be made between the EU and China to substantiate the investment.

Arulselvan and Thomas’s proposal was particularly commended by the contest judges for its potential impact to considerably reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

To learn more about the pair’s proposal, read here:

Watch a video about the pair’s work here: 


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Rebecca Keane
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