Hydrogen powered aircraft could make zero-carbon emission flights possible
Passengers could one day fly anywhere in the world with no carbon emissions and just one stop on board a concept aircraft unveiled by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) today.
It says that up to 279 passengers could fly between London and San Francisco in the US or Auckland in New Zealand with just one stop with the same speed and comfort as today’s aircraft, revolutionising the future of air travel.
Developed by a team of aerospace and aviation experts from across the UK collaborating on the government backed FlyZero project, the AIT claims that the concept demonstrates the huge potential of green liquid hydrogen for air travel not just regionally or in short haul flight but for global connectivity.
Liquid hydrogen is a lightweight fuel, which has three times the energy of kerosene and sixty times the energy of batteries per kilogramme and emits no CO2 when burned.
Realising a larger, longer range aircraft also allows the concentration of new infrastructure to fewer international airports accelerating the rollout of a global network of zero-carbon emission flights and tackling emissions from long-haul flights.
FlyZero project director Chris Gear said: “At a time of global focus on tackling climate change our midsize concept sets out a truly revolutionary vision for the future of global air travel keeping families, businesses and nations connected without the carbon footprint.
“This new dawn for aviation brings with it real opportunities for the UK aerospace sector to secure market share, highly skilled jobs and inward investment while helping to meet the UK’s commitments to fight climate change.”
ATI admits that “big technological challenges exist to realise green liquid hydrogen-powered flight”, but believes that there is a growing incentive and reward involved in resolving these.
And with other sectors also moving towards hydrogen energy, an increased demand could lead to lower supply costs.
A new generation of highly efficient hydrogen-powered aircraft with low fuel costs is forecast to have superior operating economics than conventional aircraft from the mid-2030s onwards.
Through the development of concept aircraft FlyZero claims to have identified the on board technologies which, together with the infrastructure and ground equipment for refuelling, require rapid development to deliver zero-carbon emission flight.
These advanced technologies include wings without fuel tanks (dry wings), hydrogen tanks, cryogenic fuel systems, fuel cells and electrical power systems and hydrogen gas turbines.
In early 2022, detailed findings from the FlyZero project will be published including three final aircraft concepts (regional, narrow-body and midsize), technology roadmaps, market and economic reports and a sustainability assessment. These outputs will help shape the future of global aviation with the intention of gearing up the UK to stand at the forefront of sustainable flight in design, manufacture, technology and skills for years to come.
The UK’s Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “These designs could define the future of aerospace and aviation. By working with industry, we are showing that truly carbon free flight could be possible, with hydrogen a front runner to replace conventional fossil fuels.
“Fuelling planes sustainably will enable the public to travel as we do now, but in a way that doesn’t damage the planet. It will not only help us to end our contribution to climate change, but also represents a huge industrial opportunity for the UK.”
Jet Zero Council CEO. Emma Gilthorpe. said: “The Aerospace Technology Institute’s pioneering research highlights the potential for hydrogen in realising zero-carbon global connectivity.
“This ground-breaking green technology looks set to play a critical role in decarbonising flight and through the work of the Jet Zero Council, the UK aviation sector is exploring all avenues to ensure we protect the benefits of flying for future generations, while cutting the carbon cost.”