Within the last fifty years,global pollution and climate change had become one of the most important determinants in the aerospace industry (along with security). In fair terms, with more efficient planes, higher BPR engines and
fewer of them in each plane, we can declare that our industry
is walking in the correct path.
But what if we could radically reduce our emissions instead of making little progress in conventional engines?
This is where Airbus is starting to strike with new types of engines
and fuel, technologies, and aerodynamic configurations, all made
possible by the smallest atom: the hydrogen.
Indeed, in September 2020 Airbus has revealed three concepts
for the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft which could
enter service in 2035. These concepts all use a modified gas-turbine
engine running on hydrogen, rather than jet fuel, through combustion.
One of the advantages of Hydrogen is that the energy per mass that it frees is three times higher than conventional fuels and, the
important thing, it does not produce CO2.
Pretty optimistic, isn’t it? But how does it work?
Well, at Airbus they focus on two main ways:
- Combusting the hydrogen in modified gas-turbine
engines or converted into electrical power that complements the gasturbine via fuel cells.
This allows us to create highly efficient hybrid-electric planes.
- The second way is combining hydrogen with CO2 to create
carbon fuels with zero emissions.
Thinking about the future, we do not have to fear hydrogen
disappearing as it is the most common baryonic element in the
universe, conforming the 74% of all existing mass.
This technology is promising for our planet and future but, in order to develop it and use it in future planes, we need
support from governments with increased funding for research
and technology, digitalization, and mechanisms that encourage
the use of sustainable fuels and the renewal of aircraft fleets to allow airlines to retire older, less enviromentally-friendly aircraft earlier.
Airbus is expecting that increased availability of green hydrogen will help to decrease its cost by as much as 30% by 2030 and 50%
Apart from Airbus, other companies like the well-known Tesla have
already designed land vehicles like trucks with hydrogen technology.
What do you think about this brand-new opportunity for the industry?
Leave it in the comments!
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