October 13, 2022

Turn on the TV or open a newspaper in any country and you’re sure to see reports of packed airports, delayed flights, and lost luggage. After a two-year slump, air travel is back with a vengeance.

However, the emissions of global aviation are around 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year — more than the emissions of most countries, contributing an estimated 2.4% of global annual CO2 emissions.

The aviation industry needs to become more climate-friendly, especially as the sector is expected to more than double by 2050. The path to carbon neutrality requires innovation in several fields: fuel alternatives, electrification and energy efficiency.

Yael Weisz Zilberman, ClimateTech Sector Lead at Start-Up Nation Central. Photo by Miri Davidowitz

At Start-Up Nation Central, we see innovative climate tech as an increasingly key sector of the Israeli tech ecosystem, which is known globally for its ability to untangle difficult challenges and is well-equipped to offer solutions.

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) 

Aviation fuels derived from non-fossil resources may be the most promising way to diminish the hefty carbon footprint of air transport.

However, sustainable alternatives from biogenic sources are scarce and can be four to six times more expensive than regular fossil fuels.

One way to overcome these problems would be to utilize carbon dioxide itself to create sustainable fuel. Israeli startup RepAir Carbon Capture has developed an electrochemical device that utilizes electricity to separate CO2 from the air cost-efficiently and ensures that the CO2 captured from the atmosphere is economically viable.

Because CO2 is extracted from the air and emitted again when flying, the overall effect is a net-zero CO2 emission flight. This intersection of cheap, renewable electricity and available CO2 could be a gamechanger in sustainable synthetic fuel production.

Carbonade also is introducing a groundbreaking solution toward supporting the synthetic fuel revolution. Its patented, scalable electrochemical CO2 reduction solution can efficiently convert carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, a building block of low-carbon synthetic fuels, plastics and more.

Electric aviation

Batteries are heavy for long-route air travel, but electric aircrafts can provide a solution for low-range commuting. Introducing Alice – the first all-electric commuter aircraft developed in Israel by Eviation Aircraft in partnership with Parker Aerospace.

Alice, which recently completed its maiden flight near Eviation headquarters in Washington State, is designed to carry nine passengers, with nearly zero emissions, reduced maintenance and operational costs. Eviation has signed a letter of intent with Massachusetts-based Cape Air for the purchase of 75 all-electric Alice commuter aircrafts.

Energy efficiency

The complement to better fuels is better fuel efficiency. Planes produce less CO2 by improving engines, enhancing aerodynamics, and using lighter materials.

Seevix has developed a biopolymer material inspired by spider silk, which is particularly lightweight as well as strong, elastic and impact absorbent.

Another solution to make aircrafts lighter is a DC-BUS subnetwork from Yamar that controls all passenger seat functions using a single DC power line, eliminating the need for multiple heavy and long wires typically used in cabins.

Going circular

Airlines are increasingly working to incorporate sustainability into their operations, such as eliminating single-use plastics, enhancing recycling and reducing food waste.

That’s where a company like TIPA can step in. The company’s fully compostable transparent packaging extends the shelf-life of fresh produce and provides an ecofriendly alternative to the conventional polybags used to wrap blankets.

Israel’s globally renowned alternative protein scene also has much to offer airlines seeking to revamp their food menus with more ecofriendly options.

We expect exciting innovations for decarbonizing aviation, and other climate-related fields, to get a further boost from Start-Up Nation Central’s Climate Solutions Prize program; we will announce the winners in November.

Yael Weisz Zilberman is the ClimateTech Sector Lead at Start-Up Nation Central, an Israel-based non-profit organization that promotes the Israeli innovation ecosystem around the world.

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