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Hydrogen is in the air
Hydrogen is one of the more obvious paths for the aircraft industry(Wikicommons)

The aviation industry is still reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw travel plummet especially over long-distance destinations. As for most of us, though, it was also a time for the industry to reflect. The requirement for more sustainable forms of aircraft emitting less CO2 gained increasing momentum. As fewer planes took to the sky and other forms of transport slowed down as well, with various industries grounding to a halt, carbon emissions decreased dramatically – pointing the way to a cleaner future.

According to some estimates, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the aviation sector was responsible for about 2% of the world’s annual carbon dioxide emissions. On its current fast-paced growth trajectory, some predict that the amount of CO2 from airplanes could triple by 2050, if nothing changes.

The aviation industry did not wait for COVID to embark on solutions for greener transport. The last couple of years have shone a new light on these efforts and perhaps made them increasingly obvious to those who were initially more reluctant to fully endorse changing technologies and processes.

At the recent United Nations Climate Summit in Glasgow, some of the biggest airlines signed a pact to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. In the medium-to long term, these carriers are vowing to move to net zero carbon emissions.

Aircraft powered by hydrogen

One of the options to reach zero emissions is hydrogen. As one of the major European aircraft and airspace manufacturers puts it, “We believe hydrogen is one of the most promising zero-emission technologies to reduce aviation’s climate impact. This is why we consider hydrogen to be an important technology pathway to achieve our ambition of bringing a zero-emission commercial aircraft to market by 2035.”

The aircraft giant bets on a hybrid-hydrogen concept using both hydrogen as a fuel and electricity produced by fuel cells. The idea is to use a modified gas turbine engine which will be powered by hydrogen combustion – not unlike spacecrafts. Liquid hydrogen is combined with oxygen to generate fuel. In addition, hydrogen fuel cells will create electrical power that complements the energy produced by the gas turbine, resulting in a highly efficient hybrid-electric propulsion system. According to the company “all of these technologies are complementary, and the benefits are additive”.

IEC Technical Committee 105 has recently published several ground-breaking standards relating to fuel cell technology. Among these, IEC 62282-8-201 concerns energy storage systems using fuel cell modules in reverse modes. It establishes performance indicators and test procedures of power-to-power energy storage systems using hydrogen.

“Hydrogen and fuel cell technology can be expensive but by standardizing components and operating conditions in the field, we are paving the way for mass production”, one of the experts of IEC TC 105, Stephen McPhail indicates.

To read the full article: e-tech


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