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Updated: July 28, 2012 20:36 IST

Kochi could be supersonic hub: expert

S. Anandan
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The Hindu

Kochi could cash in on the opportunity to become the supersonic capital of the world in future, argues an eminent academic in aerospace

The game changer in civil aviation will be the inevitable advent of liquid hydrogen-fuelled supersonic airliners.

Kochi, by way of its geographical position, could cash in on the opportunity to become the supersonic capital of the world in future, argues an eminent academic in aerospace.

Thrissur-born Narayanan Komerath, professor at the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering under the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta who has three US patents and over 250 publications to his credit, believes that eastern hemisphere demographics, economics, energy and carbon issues have titled the future of aviation heavily in favour of supersonic airliners, but hydrocarbon-fuelled supersonic flight is no doubt unviable.

The next frontier

“It is the next frontier as everything else is saturated,” Dr. Komerath told The Hindu during an interaction.

He was in the city on Thursday to endorse Cochin International Airport (CIAL) as the future supersonic junction at the Sree Narayana Gurukulam College of Engineering, Kolencherry.

Dr. Komerath maintains that the successful migration of commercial aviation to point-to-point architecture has brought about the need for faster air travel in a cost-effective, eco-friendly way.

The skyrocketing price of jet fuel coupled with the urgent need to cut down hydrocarbon emissions indicates that the recourse is to embrace liquid hydrogen-fuelled supersonic aviation, which is economical, efficient and green.

“The issue of sonic boom [deafening noise caused by supersonic flight that led governments to ban supersonic flights over populated areas] can be addressed by restricting the speeds in the range of mach 1.2 to 1.6. Studies have indicated that the use of liquid hydrogen as fuel would reduce the weight of the aircraft, reduce the drag and the sonic boom drastically, while cutting the flight time by 40 percent…. Once the aviation sector is brought into the ambit of the Kyoto Protocol which is imminent, air transportation industry will have to cut CO2 emissions by 50 percent. This makes immense sense to switch over to liquid hydrogen; and mass production of hydrogen fuel for the automobile industry [futuristic hybrid cars and the like] can make it the cheapest,” says Dr. Komerath.

He thinks that the need of the hour is for research and development institutions in India to take up projects on this ultra-modern green technology.

Kochi well-poised

There should be work on the development of technologies for liquid hydrogen infrastructure; production of hydrogen from solar and bio sources that are abundant in the country; and creation of ground infrastructure such as handling facilities at airports and feeder requirements.

“It could be a watershed for Kochi, which is well-poised for the role. And once we have created a market with supporting infrastructure, global airline majors will make a beeline for the city,” he concludes.

Had crude oil not been found we would have gone the liquid hydrogen way because it is the
most non polluting fuel and is abundantly available by just splitting water. This could be done
using solar energy at no operating cost (except initial cost of installation). We could have
then developed methods to liquefy hydrogen gas which would have saved the earth from all
this pollution, greenhouse gases and their ill effects. Our cars would have also been
developed to use hydrogen as fuel. We would have been in a greener world with lower levels
of hazards. The processes of nature such as the green house effect, global warming etc are
not all that easy to reverse even if we want to. Caution is the watchword when it comes to
the question of dabbling with nature. The other important requirement which can have a sea
change in our energy utilization is the capacity to store energy in large quantities. The
present facilities use batteries that have very low capacities and are very expensive.

from:  Srinivasan R
Posted on: Jul 30, 2012 at 17:49 IST
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