LONDON, Sept. 15, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Yocova, an end-to-end platform for innovation in aviation, reveals the latest news regarding emissions research.
The road to hydrogen-powered aircraft requires many technology bricks, and as Airbus focuses on the 2035 deadline for its ZEROe hydrogen project, a key brick is researching in detail the emissions from hydrogen combustion at altitude. To that end, as an early-stage project, Airbus is launching Blue Condor, a pair of propelled gliders that will conduct research in 2023.
Yocova had the chance to speak with Sabine KlaukeAirbus’ chief technology officer, and Sandra Bour Schafferhead of Airbus demonstrators and the chief executive officer of Airbus’ demonstrator hub UpNext, during and after the project’s reveal.
“Contrail characterisation is of significant interest to Airbus. We know that hydrogen emits no carbon dioxide when burned, but we also know that with water vapour and heat being the most significant by-products, hydrogen combustion does produce contrails,” Bour Schaffer explains. “Although these contrails differ significantly to those produced by conventional JetA and A1 combustion engines, understanding their composition will be key.”
What are the differences between burning kerosene (fossil and SAF) and hydrogen in the atmosphere?
Key to direct hydrogen combustion as a future technology at the core of aviation is understanding how the non-carbon emissions from hydrogen-burning engines affect the atmosphere, and how this differs from kerosene.
Non-carbon emissions from fossil fuel kerosene include oxides of nitrogen (commonly referred to as NOx), soot, oxidised sulphur, and water vapour. These create additional warming effects, whether directly or indirectly (like the additional insolation from contrails), some of which are magnified further by altitude.
Most of the more sustainable aviation fuels, or SAFs, behave in similar yet subtly different ways to fossil fuel kerosene. Some SAFs, for example, contain less sulphur — a challenge to overcome for enginemakers who have relied on sulphur aromatics to make certain seals swell in older engines, but a benefit on the emissions side.
When it comes to hydrogen, airframers have two options: one is to burn hydrogen directly in the engine, while the other is to power aircraft via hydrogen fuel cells.
On the direct hydrogen combustion side, Bour Schaffer tells Yocova, “today’s theory tells us that there is no CO2 emission. There are some NOx. We …