A specialised delivery system for stratospheric sulphate aerosols: design and operation

M. Janssens, I. E. de Vries, S. J. Hulshoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Temporary stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) using sulphate compounds could help to mitigate some of the adverse and irreversible impacts of global warming. Among the risks and uncertainties of SAI, the development of a delivery system presents an appreciable technical challenge. Early studies indicate that specialised aircraft appear the most feasible (McClelan et al., Aurora Flight Sciences, 2010; Smith and Wagner, Environ Res Lett 13(12), 2018). Yet, their technical design characteristics, financial cost of deployment, and emissions have yet to be studied in detail. Therefore, these topics are examined in this two- part study. This first part outlines a set of injection scenarios and proposes a detailed, feasible aircraft design. Part 2 considers the resulting financial cost and equivalent CO2 emissions spanned by the scenarios and aircraft. Our injection scenarios comprise the direct injection of H2SO4 vapour over a range of possible dispersion rates and an SO2 injection scenario for comparison. To accommodate the extreme demands of delivering large payloads to high altitudes, a coupled optimisation procedure is used to design the system. This results in an unmanned aircraft configuration featuring a large, slender, strut-braced wing and four custom turbofan engines. The aircraft is designed to carry high-temperature H2SO4, which is evaporated prior to injection into a single outboard engine plume. Optimised flight profiles are produced for each injection scenario, all involving an initial climb to an outgoing dispersion leg at 20 km altitude, followed by a return dispersion leg at a higher altitude of 20.5 km. All the scenarios considered are found to be technologically and logistically attainable. However, the results demonstrate that achieving high engine plume dispersion rates is of principal importance for containing the scale of SAI delivery systems based on direct H2SO4 injection, and to keep these competitive with systems based on SO2 injection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-85
Number of pages19
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • Climate engineering
  • Solar geoengineering
  • Solar radiation management
  • Specialised aircraft
  • Stratospheric sulphate aerosol injection
  • Technological implementation


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