Airbus is looking ahead to a greener aviation future, revealing a major project to build hydrogen jetliners that not only feature a full hydrogen fueled propulsion system but also a hydrogen auxiliary power unit (APU) for onboard electrical power.
People often talk about a new hydrogen economy, but it’s not just about simply swapping fossil fuels for hydrogen. The two are very different things and require more than an engine modified to burn hydrogen. It requires very basic complete systems and engineering.
Airbus, in cooperation with the Ariane Group, a joint venture between Airbus and Safran, has completed the testing of a complete system for the supply of hydrogen to aviation gas turbine engines. The HyPERION project, named after the French acronym for hydrogen for environmentally responsible aviation propulsion, began in December 2020 and aims to produce practical hydrogen commercial airliners by 2035. The aim is to test technologies to ensure they operate at a high level of security and to identify areas where more work needs to be done.
In this case, the idea is to combine Airbus’ expertise in aircraft manufacturing with the liquid hydrogen system developed by the Ariane Group for the Ariane series of space rockets. In the new system, hydrogen is stored as a supercooled liquid in cryogenic tanks. This is distributed into the fuel system, which preheats the liquid, turning it back into a gas, which is delivered to the engine at optimal temperature and pressure.
ArianeGroup’s Vernon test facility, in conjunction with French aerospace laboratory ONERA, investigated compatible metal and hydrogen conditioning systems in a proof-of-concept test on May 12, 2023, using an originally developed electric pump, gas generation Heater and Heat Exchanger for Ariane Rockets.
In another project, Airbus UpNext is working on a demonstration program to replace a “hidden” engine on an airliner.
If you asked most people how many engines are on an airliner, they’d probably count the ones hanging off the wings, but there’s also a jet engine at the tail of the plane. This is the APU, which is a jet turbine engine connected to a generator that powers the aircraft’s onboard lighting, galley and cockpit avionics, and provides heating and cooling while pressurizing the cabin.
What Airbus wants to do is build a sea energy By 2025, the APU on the Airbus A330 will be replaced by hydrogen fuel cells, which will reduce emissions and noise levels from conventional units.
Airbus UpNext CEO Michael Ojelo said: “These tests will mark a new step in our decarbonization journey and ZEROe program with an ambitious flight demonstration that will take place by the end of 2025. “We want to demonstrate the operability and integration of the system, including refueling the aircraft with hydrogen. We will demonstrate the system in real-world conditions, climbing to 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) and Flying gaseous hydrogen on board a ship for an hour. However, we cannot do this alone and our collaboration with the Spanish government and external partners will be a key enabler for this series of tests.”