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The TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy is now part of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability!

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Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Tânia Ferreira

Year Awarded: 2021

Research Lab: Prof. Catherine Gorle


Tânia Ferreira received her B.S. (’13) and M.S. (’15) in Aeronautical Engineering from Universidade da Beira Interior (UBI, Portugal). Tânia graduated with a Research Master in Fluid Dynamics (’16) at the von Karman Institute (VKI, Belgium). She received her Ph.D. (’21) in Mechanical Engineering at Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain, Belgium), in collaboration with VKI and Centre de recherche en aéronautique (Cenaero, Belgium) and supervised by Prof. Tony Arts. During her doctoral studies, Tânia investigated boundary layer transition and convective heat transfer of a high-pressure turbine through wind tunnel experiments and numerical simulations. In her latest work as a Research Engineer at the VKI, she focused on alternative aircraft propulsion technologies and fuels for cleaner aviation.

Quantifying and reducing the climate impact of contrails from hydrogen-powered aircraft

Roadmaps for climate-neutral aviation heavily rely on hydrogen-based propulsion technologies. Although albeit free from carbon emissions, this energy carrier emits 2.6 times more water vapor than conventional kerosene engines.

As a result, the potential for condensation trails (contrails) – ice clouds formed from mixing hot and moist jet exhaust with cold ambient air – will increase.

This potential increase in contrail formation is concerning; non-CO2 effects (emissions other than carbon dioxide (CO2) also contributing to climate change) were estimated to account for 66% of the net warming of aviation in 2018. Contrails cirrus (contrails and ensuing cirrus clouds) were the dominant factor. Overall, their climate impact is estimated to be of similar magnitude or larger than the CO2 impact, but with a large degree of uncertainty.  However, the fact that contrails cirrus is a dominant factor also offers significant potential to reduce climate impact.

Tânia’s research at Stanford will focus on high-fidelity simulations and uncertainty quantification of contrail formation from hydrogen-powered aircraft to help advance their physical understanding.  Leveraging on these outcomes, reduced-order models for contrails will then be created and incorporated into aircraft design tools.

The final aim is to, through a climate forcing measure, develop optimization tools to minimize this measure based on aircraft design and operational changes.