Week 48/2018

Nothing but steam

The new fuel-cell concept from Airbus at the German Aviation Innovation Award ceremony
The new fuel-cell concept from Airbus at the German Aviation Innovation Award ceremony
Hydrogen propulsion systems are promising for the transport sector. Thanks to fuel-cell technology, the first cars and trains are already running without CO2 emissions or noise pollution. And aviation is also researching the role hydrogen can play in the sky. Airbus in Hamburg is leading the way. This technology can help to save CO2.

Aviation wants to halve its net CO2 emissions by 2050 compared to 2005. This is the goal of the international community of states within the framework of the UN aviation organization, ICAO. At the same time, air traffic is growing by several percentage points every year. To make aviation greener, all potentials must be exploited. Hydrogen is one of them.

Innovative concept for hydrogen propulsion

One of the Airbus concepts is called "hydrogen to torque.” Put simply, several fuel cells generate electricity in this process. One example of how this technology could be used is in an auxiliary power unit (APU) in the rear of an aircraft. Unlike the large engines below the wings, which give the aircraft the necessary thrust, an APU primarily supplies energy inside an aircraft. In ground operation before takeoff, for instance, it generates electricity to operate the onboard electronics and the air conditioning system.

Demonstrator shows how it works

Airbus has developed a demonstrator together with the Center of Applied Aeronautical Research (ZAL) in Hamburg and demonstrated that the concept works. With the ZAL, the city of Hamburg sponsors pioneering innovations in the civil aviation industry in the Hamburg metropolitan region. Airbus' innovative concept demonstrates the successes that have been achieved here. At the ILA 2018, Airbus received the German Aviation Innovation Award from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy in the "Reduction of emissions" category.

Airbus has now filed its first patents. However, it will be a few years before the technology can actually be used in aircraft. In addition to further development work, approval issues must also be resolved.