Developing technologies to reduce CO2 emissions for the future of flight
Our commitment to innovation is our North Star in approaching sustainability. Explore more.
- Commercial engine products burn 40% less fuel since the 1970s
- Carbon neutral operations by 2030
The Future of Flight
The future of flight will be defined by how the aviation industry innovates to lower emissions and improves fuel efficiency.
Advances in engine architecture, aerodynamics, and materials developed by GE and Safran Aircraft Engines through CFM International1 have resulted in today’s aircraft engines consuming 40 percent less fuel — and emitting 40 percent less CO2 — than engines manufactured in the 1970s2 and 1980s. However, we cannot be satisfied with the pace of progress from the past.
We are currently developing the next suite of engine technologies — including open fan architectures, hybrid-electric and electric propulsion concepts, and advanced thermal management concepts — that offer the potential to achieve at least a 20 percent additional improvement in fuel efficiency compared to today’s state of the art single-aisle aircraft engines. GE Aviation is also supporting industry initiatives to approve and adopt 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and investigating hydrogen as the zero-carbon fuel of the future.
PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: The world’s largest and the most powerful aircraft engine, the GE9X, is also the most efficient engine we have ever built on a per-pounds-of-thrust basis. The GE9X engine is designed to deliver up to 10 percent greater fuel efficiency than its predecessor, with emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) 55 percent below current regulatory requirements.
The CFM RISE Program
In June 2021, GE Aviation and Safran launched a bold technology development program. The CFM RISE3 (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) Program will demonstrate and mature a range of new, disruptive technologies for future engines that could enter service in by the mid-2030s.
The program goals include reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by more than 20 percent compared to today’s most efficient engines, as well as ensuring 100 percent compatibility with alternative energy sources such as Sustainable Aviation Fuels and hydrogen.
Central to the program is achieving state-of-the-art propulsive efficiency for the engine, including developing an open fan architecture that is a key enabler to achieving significantly improved fuel efficiency while delivering the same speed and cabin experience as current single-aisle aircraft. The program will also use hybrid electric capability to optimize engine efficiency while enabling electrification of many aircraft systems.
These, and other technology advancements, have enabled GE and its partners to
in fuel burn from the CFM56-7B to LEAP engine
in fuel burn from the CF6-80C2 to GEnx engine
in fuel burn from the GE90-115B to GE9X engine
in fuel burn from competing, legacy turboprop engines available today to GE's Catalyst™ engine
Developing the next generation of breakthrough technologies
- All commercial engines can be operated with approved Sustainable Aviation Fuels
- GE invests $1.8 billion annually to accelerate technology innovations
Driving technological advancements
GE and Safran Aircraft Engines through CFM are already developing the next suite of engine technologies — including open fan architectures, hybrid-electric capability, and advanced thermal management concepts — that offer the potential to achieve at least a 20 percent additional improvement in fuel efficiency compared to today’s state of the art single-aisle aircraft engines. The CFM RISE (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) Program will demonstrate and mature a range of new, disruptive technologies for future engines that could enter service by the mid-2030s.
Electric technologies will play a role in future propulsion architectures. GE is accelerating technologies to advance the state of the art for hybrid electric and electric propulsion concepts, including power generation, power distribution, energy storage, electric motors, and propulsor technology. GE has successfully demonstrated major advances in key elements of hybrid propulsion systems, including:
- Power Generation – Generation of one megawatt of electric power while operating a modified F110 military engine in altitude conditions up to at 15,545 meters (51,000 feet).
- High Power Devices – Demonstration of a megawatt class high power density, high efficiency electrical motor/generator used to convert electrical energy to mechanical power to drive a 3.35 meter (11 foot) diameter propeller on a test stand.
- High Voltage/High Switching Frequency Devices – Demonstration of power conversion peak efficiency and power density in equipment that enables high performance and excellent power quality under variable loads.
Advanced Open Fan
GE has continually advanced state-of-the-art open fan systems, and the environmental benefits they can provide by increasing propulsive efficiency. In the 1980s, GE successfully flight tested the GE36 engine, an open fan jet engine demonstrating significant fuel savings of more than 30 percent compared with conventional ducted front fan engines in the same size class. Since then,
- GE collaborated with the FAA and NASA on sub-scale wind tunnel test campaigns through the CLEEN Program demonstrating better fuel efficiency compared to the CFM56-7B engine and significant margin to noise requirements.
- GE’s Italian entity, Avio Aero, contributed to the development and testing of counter rotating open fan architectures under Europe’s Clean Sky research program.
- Under the Clean Sky 2 program, Avio Aero supported optimization of open fan architectures through design and integration studies conducted with airframers.
Innovations beyond the engine
GE’s technology development efforts extend beyond the engine itself.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
GE has been actively involved in assessing and qualifying SAF since 2007 and works closely with SAF producers, regulators, and operators to ensure that SAF can be widely adopted for use in aviation. More than 300,000 commercial flights have been operated using SAF since 2011, according to Air Transport Action Group. We believe widespread use of SAF will be critical to dramatically reducing aviation carbon emissions.
Increasing the use of SAF has the potential to dramatically reduce fuel lifecycle carbon emissions up to 80 percent independent of other actions. GE Aviation has performed extensive testing, including the industry’s first commercial biofuel demonstration flight in 2008, and the first 100 percent SAF commercial airliner flight in 2018. All GE and GE partnership engines in service today — and in the future — can operate with approved SAF.
Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) as an Aviation Fuel
Hydrogen fuel presents a unique opportunity for the aviation industry to achieve zero carbon emissions flight. The absence of carbon in hydrogen results in combustion byproducts limited to water vapor and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Elimination of CO2 offers significant potential to reduce greenhouse emissions beyond the reductions offered by SAF.
For aviation use, hydrogen will be stored in liquid form (LH2) which requires storage in cryogenic fuel tanks at or below -253°C (-487°F). GE believes that hydrogen-powered flight is technically feasible and is working to develop technical solutions to address product design and certification hurdles associated with the combustion of a cryogenic fuel.
GE is actively working in close cross-business collaboration with GE Research, GE Renewables, and GE Power to advance research and development supporting the use of LH2.
Digital flight-efficiency tools
Software solutions that can help deliver immediate carbon reductions are available today and already in use. Developed in collaboration with long-time customer Qantas, FlightPulse® is a flight analytics tool that helps airline pilots improve safety and operational decision-making. In the first year of use, Qantas avoided 5.71 million kilograms of carbon emissions plus achieved a 15 percent increase in pilot adoption of fuel-saving procedures.
GE’s 360 Foam Wash
GE’s proprietary 360 Foam Wash is an advanced on-wing cleaning technology to help ensure that engines continue to operate efficiently. In the Middle East, GE’s 360 Foam Wash has been found to improve engine performance by reducing build-up of deposits in the engine, lowering engine exhaust temperatures, and improving engine compressor efficiency. These improvements led to reduced fuel consumption, lower CO2 emissions, and increased engine time on wing.
Carbon Neutral Operations
GE’s goal is to be carbon neutral in our facilities and operations by 2030. Plans are to reach most of the progress toward the 2030 goal through absolute reductions of direct emissions and energy use achieved through:
- Energy efficient infrastructure investments;
- Reviewing purchasing strategies for their sustainability impact;
- Evaluating facility energy contracts for smarter power and greener energy sources;
- Using lean practices to identify and eliminate waste; and
- Exploring the use of SAF in engine test cells.
Sustainable operations work is progressing across our more than 100 global sites, including this solar installed power technology at our Lynn, MA site.
- CFM International is a 50-50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines and produces LEAP and CFM56 engines. CFM introduced the LEAP-1A engine into revenue service in August 2016. This engine has 15 percent lower fuel consumption than CFM56 engines introduced in the 1990s and 22 percent lower fuel consumption than the CFM56-3 engine introduced in 1984.
- GE Aviation introduced the CF6 engine into revenue service in 1971, which improved fuel efficiency compared to existing commercial engines in the market at the time. The introduction of the GE90 in 1995 and the GEnx in 2011 offered additional fuel burn improvements. GEnx engines offer up to 15% improved fuel burn compared to CF6 engines. GE90 engines helped pioneer twin-engine long range flights, compared to four-engine aircraft variants. From 1971 until today, the CF6, GEnx and GE90 engine technologies have led to a 40% decrease in fuel consumption for commercial widebody aircraft.
- RISE (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) is a registered trademark of CFM International.