Rolls-Royce, EasyJet launch hydrogen-powered jet engines • The Register

An aviation first was achieved in the UK when Rolls-Royce and easyJet said they had conducted the “world’s first run of a modern aircraft engine on hydrogen”.

While the test was ground-based, Rolls-Royce said that the successful firing of a Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A regional jet engine converted to hydrogen power was a big step forward in proving hydrogen as a viable zero-carbon option for the aviation industry.

In addition, the hydrogen fuel used in the test was collected by the European Marine Energy Center at its test facility in the Orkney Islands, where it was collected using renewable energy sources.

“This is a true British success story, with the hydrogen used to power the jet engine being produced today using tidal and wind energy from Scotland’s Orkney Islands – and a prime example of how we can work together to improve aviation during cleaner driving jobs across the country,” said UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Grant Shapps.

Shapps noted recent moves towards “guilt-free flying” by switching from fossil fuels to carbon-neutral or zero-carbon energy sources.

Rolls-Royce and easyJet said further runs would follow after analyzing the test data, with plans for a full-scale ground test of a Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 jet engine to round out the project. Eventually, the two said they plan to conduct test flights, but no schedule has been publicly announced.

What about electric planes?

As for other recent green aviation initiatives, last year the UK government awarded a meager £700,000 ($836,000) to airports for future-proofing efforts. The cash pool was thinned even further by splitting it among 15 projects that would use it to retrofit equipment and train ground crew to handle hydrogen and electric aircraft.

Two projects carried out elsewhere earlier this year also bode well for the future of hydrogen as a source of aviation fuel.

The first, conducted at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, found that synthetic gas (or syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon dioxide) can be produced using only moisture and CO2 collected from ambient air and reformed in a high performance solar radiation condenser.

Because the CO2 The fuel used to generate the synthesis gas is obtained from the air, the fuel is carbon neutral and only releases what was collected during its production.

In a second attempt from the University of Melbourne, a team did something similar, using solar energy to extract water vapor from the air and separate the hydrogen from the oxygen. This project brought only H2 Fuel, not syngas, and designed to operate in low humidity environments – like the Australian outback.

Electric planes, meanwhile, have been hampered by the same thing that hampered all electronics: batteries. In this case, her weight.

That doesn’t mean that electric aerospace developments have stalled. American Airlines reserved 50 electric planes in July, while United Airlines and regional carriers ordered 200 electric planes last year.

The kicker in both cases is that they’re tiny vehicles, designed as local air taxis to take commuters to airports, in American’s case, and as 19-seaters for short hops of up to 200 miles (400 km ) for United.

Heart, the makers of the 19-seaters purchased by United, recently abandoned that design in favor of a 30-seater variant with less electric range but the addition of backup gas-powered engines, effectively making it a hybrid that burns fuel Gas still only manages to get close to the 19-seater variant.

Heart expects the 30-seat plane to be airborne by 2028.

EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren, meanwhile, said hydrogen offers “great opportunities for a range of aircraft, including easyJet-sized aircraft”. While not a direct look at battery-powered aircraft, a look at the low-cost airline’s fleet reveals that it consists of Airbus A319 and A320 family aircraft, each with over 150 seats and a minimum range of 1,711 miles (2,753 kilometers).

Rolls-Royce said the partnership between it and EasyJet was inspired by the United Nations’ Race to Zero campaign to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – just a little over 27 short years away.

For anyone looking to reach net-zero beyond regional flights, that 2050 deadline could require some hydrogen. ® Rolls-Royce, EasyJet launch hydrogen-powered jet engines • The Register

Rick Schindler

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