The road to Airbus ZEROe- Hydrogen Tanks

Airbus ZEROe

For an aircraft to fly directly on hydrogen, there are two basic technologies:

  • fuel a hydrogen-powered engine with modified gas turbine engines
  • utilize hydrogen fuel cells to generate electrical power
  • Use a hybrid strategy that combines both technologies

However, there is a constant at work regardless of these alternatives: hydrogen needs to be kept extremely cold. Even when the tanks are empty, it must be kept at a constant temperature of -253°C for storage and the entire flight.

However, there is a constant at work regardless of these alternatives: hydrogen needs to be kept extremely cold. Even when the tanks are empty, it must be kept at a constant temperature of -253°C for storage and the entire flight.

Thus, storage tanks are a crucial component of a hydrogen-powered aircraft, but they are entirely distinct from those on a conventional aircraft.

Hence to design and produce the hydrogen tanks, Airbus constructed Zero Emission Development Centers (ZEDCs) in Bremen, Germany, and Nantes, France.

Innovation and expertise at the ZEDCs

 Bremen is close to Ariane Group and Airbus Defence and Space, with their experience working with hydrogen, and Nantes has considerable expertise with metallic structures. The tank is manufactured in Nantes, and the coldbox, which takes care of the gasification of the liquid hydrogen, is produced in Bremen.

Representative | Leeham News

It’s a real testament to the teamwork across our sites to see this first tank being manufactured so quickly. We want to optimise the tank for greater efficiency and to further reduce its environmental footprint: after all, a zero-emission aircraft needs to be as close to zero emission as possible throughout its whole life cycle- Chris Redfern, Head of Manufacturing, ZEROe Aircraft and Head of Propulsion Industrial Architect

This tank is not just technologically advanced; it also marks a break from conventional procedures. The teams chose a co-development strategy, embracing an agile and dynamic working methodology, where they acknowledged the need to invent, test, fail rapidly, and adapt in order to advance quickly.

The development at the Nantes location, where the team used an empty warehouse to construct the first cryogenic hydrogen tank ever created by Airbus in just over a year, serves as an example of this pace.

The current stage of development

The cryogenic hydrogen tanks are designed by engineers in Toulouse using software. The teams in Bremen and Nantes receive these designs, assess them, and look into the manufacturing process. Once the design has been decided upon, the first tank is created and tested using nitrogen rather than hydrogen- and this is where Airbus seems to be at today, according to the manufacturer.

Next step, according to the company, is to look at designing the second prototype with a critical outlook. Insights are gained into what could be done better.

Data from testing is gathered with a focus on maximizing available space, enhancing performance, and streamlining the manufacturing process. The construction and testing of the second tank, which is already underway, will take around another year.

What next?

Okay, so that just about covers the storage part of liquid hydrogen. Of course, there are many variables involved when it comes to deploying hydrogen propulsion on a commercially viable scale. Nevertheless, the efforts are on and the next episode would focus on fuel cells and how to convert hydrogen into electricity. Stay put!

SOURCE : AIRBUS

COVER : Airbus

Responses

Feed
Jobs
News
Magazine