The plastics research center plans to develop new materials and hydrogen leak detection sensors to reduce by 50% tank mass compared to current prototypes.
According to Aimplas, using hydrogen rather than kerosene to power aircraft could eliminate the emission of carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions such as carbon monoxide, methane, soot particles and oxidized sulphur species, leaving only water vapor and near-zero nitrogen oxides. However, while hydrogen-powered aircraft exist, the current cost of storing and using it as a fuel in prolonged flights is too high, and there is an absence of viable storage systems in aircraft, due to strict limitations in weight, volume and cost efficiency.
The European Overleaf project is led by aerospace company Aciturri Engineering and 10 companies and institutions from six European countries. It also aims to develop an LH2 propulsion system for safer operation over a long lifetime. Current fuel cell system technology will need to achieve up to two or three times more system power density than current fuel cell systems are projected to achieve, with efficiencies of up to 55 to 60%(LHV), Aimplas says.
“Hydrogen is an energy vector for aviation and different EU industries, such as the railway industry, reducing the climate impact and contributing to decarbonization objectives,” said Emma Celeste Lope, project coordinator. “The development of new technologies to store hydrogen more efficiently and economically is needed.”