New Airbus UK laboratory to develop hydrogen fuel systems


Airbus is to open a laboratory to develop hydrogen fuel systems for use in aircraft at Filton, UK.

The Zero Emission Development Centre (ZEDC) will be focused on developing a cryogenic fuel system that can be cost effectively used in Airbus’ ZEROe passenger aircraft, which is planned for entry-into-service by 2035. The centre will also accelerate skills and know-how on hydrogen-propulsion technologies.

Airbus said that technology development at the ZEDC has already started and that the R&D work will cover the full product and industrial capabilities, from components up to whole system and cryogenic testing. End-to-end fuel systems development, already conducted by Airbus UK will be crucial to the performance of a future hydrogen aircraft, it added.

The UK ZEDC will also host R&D projects funded by the UK Government through its Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI). The UK Government has pledged £685 million (US$862 million) to support the development of zero-carbon and ultra-low-emission aircraft technologies over the next three years.

Sabine Klauke, Airbus’ chief technical officer said, “Establishing the ZEDC in the UK expands Airbus’ in-house industrial capabilities to design, develop, test and manufacture cryogenic hydrogen storage tanks and related systems for the ZEROe project across Airbus’ four home countries.

“This, coupled with our partnership with ATI, will allow us to leverage our respective expertise to realise the potential of hydrogen technology to support the decarbonisation of the aviation industry.”

Airbus has recently launched several ZEDCs around Europe to develop cryogenic liquid hydrogen tanks, including in Madrid, Spain. A ZEDC based in Stade, Germany is developing composite structure technologies for the tanks while in Nantes, France and Bremen, Germany researchers are looking into metallic structural technologies.

Airbus plans for its first fully functional cryogenic hydrogen tank to be ready for ground testing next year and for flight testing starting in 2026.

In February this year, Airbus revealed the flying testbed it plans to use for hydrogen-combustion propulsion systems development – a converted A380. The testbed will be used to flight test fuel systems and storage for liquid hydrogen, as well as a hydrogen-fueled jet engine provided by CFM International.

The launch of the UK ZEDC follows the opening of the £40 million (US$50 million) AIRTeC research and testing facility in Filton last, which was jointly funded by the ATI and Airbus. AIRTec is developing next generation  aircraft wing, landing-gear systems and fuel system technologies.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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