Is There A Better Way To Power Airplanes?

Is There A Better Way To Power Airplanes?

This video was made in partnership with Bill Gates. To learn more about his work on clean energy, visit

It’s hard to replace jet fuel because the alternatives aren’t energetic enough, are too dangerous, or aren’t yet being made at scale.

Thanks also to our Patreon patrons and our YouTube members.
To learn more, start your googling with these keywords:
Jet fuel – a liquid petroleum fuel with high specific energy and energy density, used in airplane jet engines, made of kerosene with a few additives
Specific Energy – how much energy something contains per unit mass
Energy Density – how much energy something contains per unit volume
Synthetic jet fuel – a jet fuel replacement, typically aiming to have lower life cycle environmental impacts than jet fuel (AKA: sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), alternative jet fuel, renewable aviation fuel, renewable jet fuel, biojet fuel, sustainable alternative fuel)
Kerosene – a petroleum product that is the main component of jet fuel (and old fashioned lanterns)
If you liked this week’s video, you might also like:
What you get from a barrel of oil –
Real Engineering: Are Electric Planes Possible? –
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Credits (and Twitter handles):
Script Writer and Narrator: Alex Reich (@alexhreich)
Video Illustrators: Ever Salazar and Sarah Berman
Video Director: Ever Salazar (@eversalazar)
With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Kate Yoshida, Peter Reich, David Goldenberg, Julián Gómez, Arcadi Garcia Rius
Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder:


ATAG. Nov 2017. Beginner’s Guide to Sustainable Aviation Fuel, Edition 3. Accessed Jan 2020.

ATAG. “Producing sustainable aviation fuel” Accessed Jan 2020

Burton, Freya. Personal communication, Feb 2020

Caldeira, K. Personal communication, Feb 2020

Cey, E., et al. 2019. Energy Education. “Oil formation.” Accessed Jan 2020

Chuck, C. (Ed.). 2016. Biofuels for aviation: feedstocks, technology and implementation. Academic Press

Goldmann, A., et al. 2018. A study on electrofuels in aviation. Energies, 11(2), 392.

Hileman, J. I., & Stratton, R. W. 2014. Alternative jet fuel feasibility. Transport Policy, 34, 52-62.

IATA. May 2019. “Sustainable Aviation Fuels Fact sheet.” Accessed Jan 2020

IATA. December 2019. “Fuel Fact Sheet.” Accessed March 2020

Le Feuvre, P. 18 March 2019. Are aviation biofuels ready for take off?

Lehtveer, M., Brynolf, S., & Grahn, M. 2019. What Future for Electrofuels in Transport? Analysis of Cost Competitiveness in Global Climate Mitigation. Environmental science & technology, 53(3), 1690-1697.

McKinsey. Energy Resources. Accessed December 2019.

Monroe Aerospace. 29 April 2019. Why Airplanes Use Kerosene Rather Than Plain Gasoline for Fuel.

Searle, S. 15 Nov 2018. Decarbonizing aviation through low-carbon fuels will be beyond difficult.

Shaw, R.J. 12 June 2014. “How does a jet engine work?” Accessed Jan 2020

Sindreu, J. 10 Jan 2020. The Promise of Sustainable Aviation Fuel Isn’t for Today.

Wikipedia. “Nuclear Powered Aircraft” Accessed Jan 2020.

Thanks also to Steve Thorne and Erik Pieh.

References for calculations

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