Aerospace Technology Institute unveils liquid hydrogen aircraft concept

Long-haul aircraft concept of the FlyZero project. Photo credit: ATI

Developed by a team of UK aerospace and aviation experts under the government-backed FlyZero project, a medium and long-range aircraft concept revealed by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI, Cranfield, UK) demonstrates the potential of green liquid hydrogen for not just regional air travel or short-haul flight, but for global connectivity. More importantly, the mid-size concept will meet the demands of a market sector between single-aisle and wide-body aircraft operations, which together account for 93% of aviation carbon emissions.

ATI FlyZero’s mid-size aircraft concept demonstrates a zero-carbon aircraft capable of carrying up to 279 passengers around the world with a single stopover, and at the same speed as today’s aircraft. With a range of destinations of 5,250 nautical miles (NM) including San Francisco (4,664 NM), Delhi (3,642 NM), Beijing (4,414 NM), Vancouver (4,105 NM), Mexico City (4,815 NM) and Rio De Janeiro (4,983 NM) are within range of London. Destinations like Auckland (9,911 NM), Sydney (9,188 NM) and Honolulu (6,289 NM) are all within easy reach with just one stop.

Fueled by liquid hydrogen, the fuel is stored in cryogenic fuel tanks at around -250 ° C at the rear of the fuselage and in two smaller tanks along the front fuselage. These cheek tanks also serve to maintain the aircraft’s balance while the fuel burns and eliminate the need for additional aerodynamic structures. The 54-meter wingspan of the aircraft carries two turbojets powered by the combustion of hydrogen.

“In an age when the world is focused on tackling climate change, our mid-size concept sets out a truly revolutionary vision for the future of global air travel by keeping families, businesses and nations connected carbon-free” said Chris Gear, director of the FlyZero project. “This new era for aviation brings real opportunities for the UK aerospace sector to secure market share, highly skilled jobs and foreign investment while helping to deliver on UK commitments to tackle climate change.”

Liquid hydrogen is a light fuel, which has three times the energy of kerosene and sixty times the energy of batteries per kilogram and emits no CO2 when burnt. While there are still technological challenges for liquid hydrogen flight, the switch to hydrogen power continues to develop an incentive for its achievement. According to ATI, a new generation of highly efficient, low-fuel hydrogen aircraft is expected to have higher operating profitability than conventional aircraft from the mid-2030s.

Through the development of concept aircraft, FlyZero has identified on-board technologies which, along with the infrastructure and ground equipment for refueling, require rapid development to deliver zero carbon flight. These advanced technologies include wings without fuel tanks (dry wings), hydrogen tanks, cryogenic fuel systems, fuel cells and power systems and hydrogen gas turbines.

Projects already funded by ATI and exploring composites as potential solutions include:

  • Airbus projects (Toulouse, France): Wing of Tomorrow (most recent developments, “VBO rear spar out of autoclave, thermoplastic ribs target the wing of tomorrow” and “FACC successfully develops a new composite flap system for the wing of tomorrow ”) develop new technologies and new manufacturing processes to produce next-generation composite wings and help Airbus position itself as a leader in the single-aisle market. An essential part of the program is to develop the ability to manufacture more efficient and lighter carbon fiber wings at a much higher rate than before.
  • Rolls-Royce projects (London, UK): UltraFan will be the most efficient engine produced by Rolls-Royce and will use less fuel and produce less CO2 (see “Rolls-Royce Begins Building Prototype UltraFan Aircraft Engine”). Projects funded under the £ 200million will drive efficiency and contribute to shared government and industry ambitions on decarbonization.
  • Williams Advanced Engineering (Wantage, UK): The AIRTEK project focuses on the development of lightweight seat structures for the civil aerospace industry. Williams Advanced Engineering, in collaboration with JPA Design (London) and SWS Certification (Wales), is developing new lightweight aircraft seats to reduce aircraft weight, which will save airlines fuel and cost savings. CO2.
  • Safran Electrical & Power UK (Pitstone): The Aerospace Electric Propulsion Equipment, Controls & Machines (AEPEC) project involves lead company Safran Electrical & Power UK and its supply chain partners. They will develop power supply systems to improve power consumption on future airplanes, covering power generation, control systems and other functions on electric airplanes.

In early 2022, detailed results of the FlyZero project will be released, including three final aircraft concepts (regional, narrow-body and mid-size), technology roadmaps, market and economic reports, and an assessment of durability. These findings will help shape the future of global aviation with the intention of preparing the UK to stand at the forefront of sustainable flight in design, manufacture, technology and skills for years to come. future.

“Pioneering research from the Aerospace Technology Institute highlights the potential of hydrogen to achieve zero carbon global connectivity. This revolutionary green technology is expected to play a pivotal role in decarbonizing flights and, thanks to the work of the Jet Zero Council, the UK aviation industry is exploring all avenues to ensure that we protect the benefits of flight for future generations, everything by reducing carbon emissions. cost, ”concludes Emma Gilthorpe, CEO of Jet Zero Council.

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