Airbus and South Africa’s National Aerospace Centre are to co-fund fuel cell research by Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) Systems for three years.
High jet fuel costs and industry commitments to halving 2005 carbon dioxide emissions levels by 2050 are why emissions-free hydrogen fuel cells are seen as a substitute to small gas turbines called Auxiliary Power Units (APUs), which are used for generating electrical power while the aircraft is on the ground.
The project, undertaken by HySA Systems at the University of the Western Cape, will identify fuel cell performance and ageing.
HySA Systems director, professor Bruno Pollet, says that the research, “is aimed at gaining an understanding of how hydrogen fuel cells could perform over an aircraft’s service life.”
According to Airbus, fuel cells do not have any moving parts and are less maintenance intensive. Airbus says they would reduce the aircraft’s weight and fuel consumption. Airbus has performed test flights using fuel cells for emergency power systems, but the technology is not good enough to permit the complete replacement of the electrical power systems.