Pressures from governments around the world to limit emissions are forcing manufacturers to find new solutions to fuel their products. Rolls-Royce, the famous producer of aircraft engines, is testing new models that run on hydrogen. Hydrogen used as fuel has no emissions other than water, and its use in aircraft could dramatically reduce the industry’s carbon footprint. The question is, can hydrogen be used to power jets? The world is about to find out. Sylvia Pfeifer reports in the Financial Times:
Rolls-Royce plans to test whether hydrogen can safely power a small aircraft in ground trials using two of its engines as the UK engineering group steps up research into cutting-edge technologies.
The first trial will be carried out in the UK this year using one of its AE 2100 turboprop engines that powers civil and military aircraft, while the second will test the fuel on a Pearl 15, one of its business jet engines, in the US at a later date.
The move comes as the aviation industry is under pressure to curb harmful emissions. Air traffic volumes and emission levels have rebounded as passengers have returned to the skies following the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Aviation consultancy IBA forecasts carbon emissions this year will be 36 per cent higher than 2021 and match pre-pandemic 2019 levels by 2023.
The trials, although not involving flying an aircraft, are part of a new hydrogen demonstration programme launched by Rolls-Royce after research showed there was market potential for hydrogen-powered aircraft.
The research was carried out in partnership with the Fly Zero team aiming to realise zero carbon emissions at the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute, the body that allocates state funding for innovation in the sector.
The tests would “give us an early feel of some of the challenges of burning hydrogen”, said Alan Newby, director of Aerospace Technology and Future Programmes at Rolls-Royce. A decision on whether to conduct full flight tests will be taken in a year or two.
Read more here.
Rolls-Royce isn’t the only engine manufacturer looking at hydrogen. Here’s a video explaining a collaboration between Airbus and GE on hydrogen engines for the A380.