Come 2045, we might just be flying around in planes powered by cryogenically frozen liquid natural gas. Boeing has unveiled a new NASA-commissioned concept called the SUGAR Freeze — SUGAR stands for Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research — that runs on liquid natural gas (LNG) and burns significantly less fuel than current planes. It's based on an earlier concept called the SUGAR High, which was designed to show what an aircraft might look like in 2030. The original High design was a 154-seat plane that had a long span, strut-braced wing to improve aerodynamic efficiency, and the Freeze is largely the same — the difference is that it features new engine technology that runs on LNG, as well as two tanks at the front and rear to hold the gas.
The change not only lets the plane burn 64 percent less fuel compared to the modern Boeing 737-800, but it also reduces costs, as natural gas is expected to remain relatively cheap for the foreseeable future. New aircraft technologies typically take around two decades before they're commercially viable, and the team at Boeing has at least a few obstacles to overcome with the Freeze: there are safety concerns with how the tanks and engine are integrated into the plane, as well as potential environmental issues due to the methane emissions that result from LNG production. But with a goal of 2045, there's plenty of time to iron out the kinks.