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Airbus prepares for its first megawatt-class hydrogen fuel-cell engine flight-test demonstrator

Airbus prepares for its first megawatt-class hydrogen fuel-cell engine flight-test demonstrator

Airbus prepares for its first megawatt-class hydrogen fuel-cell engine flight-test demonstrator

A brand-new, zero-emission aeroplane that will be in service by 2035 could use an architecture of hydrogen-powered fuel cells with cryogenic storage. In less than four years, Airbus is already on schedule to design, construct, and demonstrate such a megawatt-class propulsion system.

While these concepts explore various size categories, aerodynamic layouts and propulsion system architectures, they all have one thing in common: they are hydrogen-fuelled. Three of them have engines which use hydrogen combustion to drive their gas turbines – similar to the way that turbofans and turboprops burn kerosene today, but without the latter’s CO2 and particulate emissions.

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Rolls Royce successfully tests the World’s first hydrogen engine in partnership with Easyjet.(Opens in a new browser tab)

Meanwhile, a fourth ZEROe concept aircraft, representing a high-wing 100-seat regional airliner, features six eight-bladed propellers attached to engine pods – a configuration recently patented by Airbus. While outwardly resembling turboprop powerplants, these pods actually contain hydrogen fuel cells which produce electricity as the result of an electro-chemical reaction to power electric motors. It is in this context that Airbus has been conducting feasibility studies and laboratory tests to realise a fully working megawatt-class fuel-cell engine and demonstrator which could be tested in flight by the middle of this decade – around 2026.

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For this proof-of-concept demonstrator, liquid hydrogen from the cryogenic tank is converted into a gaseous state. It is then distributed to the fuel cell via supply lines running from the tank and through an external ‘stub’ aerodynamic and load-bearing support structure to the engine pylon interface.

American Airlines Makes Equity Investment in Universal Hydrogen(Opens in a new browser tab)

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The overall concept which the teams settled on was to make the minimum amount of structural modification inside the A380. just reinforcing two frames of the fuselage and then fitting this stub externally. Then fitting a specially adapted pylon to attach the structure of the pod onto this stub. Overall it will be able to support high sustained static and dynamic loads.

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