Futuristic Hydrogen-powered  Zero-emission Aircrafts Tested by Airbus on A380 Jet

Futuristic Hydrogen-powered Zero-emission Aircrafts Tested by Airbus on A380 Jet

Introduction

Airbus has recently unveiled three futuristic, zero-emission hydrogen-powered aircrafts as a part of its ambitions to decarbonize the aviation industry [1,2]. The designs of these three eco-friendly hydrogen-powered aircrafts include a “blended-wing body”, turboprop design, and turbofan design. Now, the company got one step closer to launching the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by testing this type of engine on a modified version of one of its A380 airliners, which were discontinued last year [3].

The company believes hydrogen is one of the most promising zero-emission technologies to reduce aviation’s climate impact. This is why it considers hydrogen to be an important technology pathway to achieve its ambition [4]. Hydrogen is a high-potential technology with a specific energy-per-unit mass that is three times higher than traditional jet fuel. If it supplied from renewable energy through electrolysis, it emits no CO2 emissions, therefore, renewable energy is able to potentially power large aircraft over long distances but without the undesirable by-product of CO2 emissions [4]. The company will use an “A380 flying testbed fitted with liquid hydrogen tanks” to trial propulsion technology for its future hydrogen aircraft [3]. Test flights are currently planned to take place till 2026.

These Airbus designed concept aircrafts are named as ZEROe [2]. In the following paragraphs, we briefly introduced these three ZEROe designs.

Blended-wing Body Design

Blended-wing Body Design

This model has the wings merge with the main body of the aircraft. It has two modified gas-turbine engines (hybrid turbofan engines) running on hydrogen. The liquid hydrogen will be stored and distributed via tanks located behind the rear pressure bulkhead, according to CNN. It would be capable of traveling more than 2,300 miles and is a 200-passenger aircraft.

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Turboprop Design

Turboprop Design

A turboprop design can seat up to 100 passengers, and uses a turboprop engine instead of a turbofan and is also powered by hydrogen combustion in modified gas-turbine engines, which would be capable of traveling more than 1150 miles, making it a perfect option for short-haul trips, according to Airbus.

Turbofan Design

Turbofan Design

A turbofan design (120-200 passengers) has a range of 2300 miles, is capable of operating transcontinentally and is powered by a modified gas-turbine engine running on hydrogen, rather than jet fuel, through combustion. 

Renewable hydrogen or green hydrogen is expected to be a solution for several industries including aviation to meet their climate targets. Since it is estimated that hydrogen has the potential to reduce aviation’s CO2 emissions by up to 50% [4]. It is worth mentioning that Airbus plans to put these three hydrogen-powered and zero-emission aircraft into service by 2035.

Did you know?

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Author: Hesam-Edin Hayati Soloot 

References

[1] Airbus, “Airbus reveals new zero-emission concept aircraft”.

[2] SolarEdition, “Futuristic Hydrogen-powered Zero-emission Aircrafts Revealed by Airbus”.

[3] CNN, “Airbus to test hydrogen-fueled engine on A380 jet”.

[4] Airbus, “Hydrogen: An important pathway to our zero-emission ambition”.







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