A Rolls-Royce AE-2100A gas turbine jet engine used in regional aircraft all over the world is currently undergoing flight testing utilizing hydrogen fuel on a military installation in England, according to BBC News. With the assistance of the airline EasyJet, the tests are being carried out.
The tests’ immediate goal is to show that hydrogen energy can be used to power jet engines. The bigger objective is for hydrogen to become a more popular clean-burning fuel, replacing fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The quest for Net Zero, according to Rolls-Royce Director of Aerospace Technology Alan Newby, is the true reason why we’re looking at hydrogen, as BBC News reported. Normally, kerosene would be used to power this device. Because kerosene is a hydrocarbon, when it burns, carbon dioxide is produced. The benefit of a fuel like a hydrogen is that it has no carbon and doesn’t burn to make carbon dioxide.
EasyJet has committed several million pounds in the early experiments because it believes switching to hydrogen fuel will be the most effective way to reduce pollution in the regional aviation industry.
EasyJet’s Chief Operating Officer, David Morgan, said the business looked into battery technology but decided it wouldn’t be practical for their larger commercial aircraft. Batteries are excessively heavy, and hydrogen has a higher energy density per pound.
According to Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology Officer at Rolls-Royce, as quoted by Simple Flying, “[O]ur objective is to take this technology to the air and actually power a broad range of aircraft.”
According to BBC News, the tests have thus far shown that a jet engine driven by hydrogen can be started and operated at modest speeds. More study and funding will be needed to create a hydrogen-powered engine that can safely operate in a passenger aircraft.
According to Chris Cholerton, President of Civil Aerospace at Rolls-Royce, “We are making genuine progress on the hard yards of research and development towards making Net Zero flight a reality” when combined with our work on Sustainable Aviation Fuel and increased gas turbine efficiency.
The airplanes that will use them will also need to be redesigned in addition to the new engines. Before hydrogen is burned, it must first be converted back into a gas at a temperature of -423.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Furthermore, compared to kerosene, which is produced by distilling crude oil, hydrogen occupies around four times as much area.
Another problem is the hydrogen’s source. In order to create clean fuel for testing, green hydrogen was created by splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen using wave and wind energy. However, the majority of the hydrogen used in industrial projects is created by combining hot steam and pressured natural gas, a process that consumes a lot of energy and emits a lot of carbon dioxide.
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Many people claim that while humans can use hydrogen, we also need hydrogen. You hear it for automobiles, trucks, ships, planes, home heating, chemicals, and more, according to Matt Finch, UK Policy Director of the advocacy group Transport and Environment, as quoted by BBC News. The UK basically produces no green hydrogen at the present. It is utterly impossible to satisfy everyone’s needs.
As a result, according to Finch, green hydrogen supplies will probably need to be conserved, and he added that governments might not give aviation priority. As a result, hydrogen-powered aircraft are unlikely to be used often for decades, presumably starting with shorter flights. Synthetic fuels are anticipated to be the best option for extended flights.