Sustainable Aviation: An Interview with Nicolas Gourdain
Let's dive into the world of aviation with the professor and industry expert Nicolas Gourdain. In this interview, Nicolas Gourdain shares his vision of the future of aviation and the role of education and research on aviation and climate change.
Meet Nicolas Gourdain , professor at ISAE - Supaero - Dpt. of Aerodynamics, Energetics and Propulsion University of Toulouse. His main research topic is the relationship between energy, climate, and aviation.
Get ready for an enriching dialogue with Nicolas Gourdain and gain insights into his perspectives on the evolving world of aviation and its impact on the environment.
What’s the role of education and research on
aviation and climate change?
At ISAE SUPAERO, we look at this subject on three different levels.
The first one is education. We teach the climate sciences and cover topics such as the basics of biodiversity, the preservation of water resources, and so on.
The second topic is research. There is research from the technological point of view. For example, we look at how to increase the propulsive efficiency of engines used on the aircraft.
We also conduct studies to understand better how aviation contributes to climate change. First, aviation is burning kerosene. So that's the first point. But the second effect, which is a bit less well known, is contrails. Contrails are the artificial clouds generated by the exhaust at the outlet of the engine. Research is still progressing on that topic, and we need to have a better knowledge of these two kinds of effects to understand their impact on climate, especially contrails.
Finally, the last point is about the daily life on the campus at ISAE SUPAERO. For example, how we can heat or cool buildings, but also social aspects like conferences.
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Did the pandemic have an impact on the technological transformation underway?
Probably yes. But this is not at the very root of the transformation of the aviation sector.
However, we have noticed that the students ask much more questions about the relationship between climate and aviation. That’s a question for our students but also us. How can we contribute now to improve the state-of-the-art knowledge on the topic? And can we find the technological levers to reduce the carbon footprint and the environmental footprint of aviation as a whole? This is probably something that has been accelerated clearly by the pandemic.
What future do you see for aviation?
Hard to know! This is not just a question for me, this is a question to ask everyone. What do you want for aviation? Is it mandatory to still see some aircraft in the sky in the future? I don't know. Maybe.
There are indeed plenty of advantages to being able to power aircraft and travel across the sea. Yet, at the same time, there is a price to pay: aviation's carbon and environmental footprint. So, this is a trade-off between these two aspects.
This question should be addressed from a societal point of view, not just from industry, not just from research, not just from students, but we should all have a common debate that is clearly not emerging at the moment.
My personal vision for aviation in the future? Definitely something environmentally friendly.