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UK government-backed liquid hydrogen plane paves way for zero emission flight
Passengers could one day fly anywhere in the world with no carbon emissions and just one stop onboard a new concept aircraft unveiled by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI).
Developed by a team of aerospace and aviation experts from across the UK, led by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), collaborating on the UK government-backed FlyZero project, 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.
The midsize aircraft concept will be capable of flying 279 passengers halfway around the world without a stop or anywhere in the world with just one stop to refuel.
Liquid hydrogen is a lightweight fuel, which has three times the energy of kerosene and 60 times the energy of batteries per kilogramme, according to the ATI, and emits no CO2 when burned.
It is hoped that realising a larger, longer range aircraft would allow the concentration of new infrastructure to fewer international airports, thereby accelerating the rollout of a global network of zero carbon emission flights and tackling emissions from long haul flights.
There are big technological challenges in order to realise green liquid hydrogen-powered flight. But there is a growing incentive and reward involved in resolving these, notes the FlyZero initiative. And with other sectors also moving towards hydrogen energy, an increased demand is expected to 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 (based on conventional aircraft operating on a taxed blend of kerosene and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) with tax removed when operating with 100% SAF and accounting for a 20% improvement in fuel efficiency of new aircraft).
Through the development of concept aircraft, FlyZero has identified onboard 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.
Detailed findings from the FlyZero project will be published in early 2022, including three final aircraft concepts (regional, narrowbody and midsize), technology roadmaps, market and economic reports and a sustainability assessment.
Photo: ATI FlyZero