To succeed in reducing emissions it will be necessary to develop and implement new technologies across the aviation system. Reduction of engine emissions is part of the story but significant advances can also be made through modifying the design and configuration of the aircraft as well as optimising air traffic management.

You can find detailed information about this in our Green Aviation Booklet.

Low drag

Research projects underway at Imperial are investigating several approaches to achieve drag reduction, each requiring a range of expertise and skills (computational, experimental and theoretical). Current research includes laminar flow control and the delay of transition, turbulent skin-friction reduction, shape optimisation for reduction of pressure drag and wave drag, and the use of feedback control for improved performance of active drag reduction devices

Aircraft configuration

Research is concentrated on the design and optimisation of advanced conceptual designs and the development of novel configurations that take advantage of emerging technologies for new operational requirements. We are developing design, optimisation and flight simulation methods to reliably evaluate their potential advantages and operational characteristics.

Engine optimisation

A key element of reducing emissions relates to the design of the engine combustor and researchers at Imperial are using a combination of advanced computation and laser diagnostics, to improve engine efficiency and reduce both fuel consumption and the formation of harmful gases.


These offer a real opportunity to reduce the total CO2 impact at the point of use. Biofuels are, however, not without their own challenges and controversies. The potential growth in demand for bio-aviation fuels will inevitably meet the same challenges that have faced land-based transport biofuels. Assessing their full life-cycle impact, net CO2 contribution and impact upon food production is a strong focus for us.

Air-traffic management

Taking the lead in this area is Imperial's Centre for Transport Studies with research activities covering ATM concepts, airport operations and environmental impact.

Climate and policy

Imperial's Grantham Institute for Climate Change was founded to drive forward climate-related research, translating this into real world impact and communicating their knowledge to help shape decision-making. The management of aviation-linked pollution will ultimately by driven by legislation, requiring agreement at both the national and supranational level if international travel is to continue unabated.

The Grantham Institute has a policy team which supports the translation of research for policy makers in government and decision makers in business.