Work on hydrogen for aircraft fuel progresses through EADS and Glasgow university


Hydrogen is regarded as a clean fuel because its only by-product is water


By Tracey Boles 

EADS, the European aerospace giant, is collaborating with British ­universities
on hydrogen fuel cells that could power a new generation of aircraft and cars.

EADS’ Innovation Works subsidiary is working on integrating the hydrogen fuel
cells onto unmanned aerial ­vehicles with a view to flying a prototype in the
next few months.

Hydrogen is regarded as a clean fuel because its only by-product is water.  However,
in gaseous form high volumes are required for fuel cells.

Now researchers at Glasgow University are working on a new solid-state storage
system for hydrogen which would not require so much space, nor be too heavy.

To enable this, researchers are using nanotechnology to alter the design and
material composition of a hydrogen storage tank to make it more efficient.

Another EADS collaboration is with Birmingham University, where a PhD student
is researching both hydrogen storage technology and a hydrogen fuel cell that
works at a different ­temperature, delivering greater ­endurance in the air.

EADS IW is expecting to apply the research to its unmanned aircraft within two
to three years.

Parties interested in the fuel cell technology could include the military, blue-light
services and oil exploration companies.

see also


Hydrogen-fuelled aircraft closer to take-off 

28.1.2011 (Nanowerk News)

The University of Glasgow is working with EADS Innovation Works (EADS IW) on
developing a revolutionary storage system for hydrogen that would pave the way
for using hydrogen as a clean alternative to hydrocarbon-based fuels in aeroplanes. 

Hydrogen is a pollution-free fuel producing only water on combustion or when
combined with oxygen in a fuel cell to produce electrical power. Boeing has tested
a manned aeroplane using hydrogen and fuel cells to drive the aircraft’s electric

The major problems which are holding back the industrial scale use of hydrogen
to power fuel cells for aeroplane and car engines are that it can be expensive
and difficult to store safely, and that it requires high volumes and weight to
operate successfully. 
Scientists at the University and EADS IW are working on using nanotechnology
to improve the efficiency of the Hydrisafe tank developed by Hydrogen Horizons
Ltd, a small start-up company, to store hydrogen in a solid state. By modifying
the composition and microstructure of the tank and hydrogen storage materials
through nanotechnology, they hope to make it possible to store and distribute
the hydrogen so efficiently that it becomes viable for powering fuel cells on
aeroplanes. Following the successful completion of the initial project, the team
plan to fly an unmanned aircraft using a hydrogen powered fuel cell as a prototype
for a commercially usable plane. 
Duncan Gregory, Professor of Inorganic Materials in the School of Chemistry at
the University of Glasgow, who is working on the project, said: “The largest bottleneck
in the process of realising hydrogen-based technologies is storage. Finding a
viable means of storing hydrogen in the solid state would pave the way for the
industrial scale use of hydrogen as a clean alternative to hydrocarbon-based fuels
in aeroplanes. 
“This exciting technology could deliver a genuine paradigm shift in aviation
transport that will have immense benefits to the environment in terms of significantly
reducing carbon emissions.” 
Dr Agata Godula-Jopek of EADS IW said “One of the EADS visions for 2020 is to
reduce emissions per aircraft by 50% and to achieve environmental protection and
green aircraft through development of new technologies and new products. It is
mandatory to develop a portfolio of technologies to satisfy key future customer/product
requirements in the field of economics, mission performance, environment and survivability.
The safe, reliable, solid-state storage of hydrogen is one of the critical problems
for fuel cells and therefore this project has potential for significant impact
within the EADS business.” 

Harry McGregor of Hydrogen Horizons said “We are extremely pleased to be working
with EADS IW and the University of Glasgow on the development of a “Hydrisafe”
hydrogen containment system for on board aircraft. Hydrogen of course is not only
the most efficient energy carrier available it is totally clean and completely
green, hydrogen can and we believe will revolutionise all modes of transportation.” 

The University and EADS IW have secured funding from the Materials Knowledge
Transfer Network – part of the UK Technology Strategy Board – and the Engineering
and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for a student to carry out a four
year PhD project, spending time at the University and the company’s UK offices
in Bristol. 

The research will involve testing the Hydrisafe tank with alternative hydrogen
storage materials. The tank currently uses the established commercially available
lanthanum nickel (LaNi¬5) storage alloy and the research will look into replacing
LaNi¬5 with another material such as magnesium hydride (MgH2) which has been modified
at the nanoscale to allow it to receive and release the hydrogen at an even faster

Modifying the construction of the tank will extend its longevity, making it suitable
to have a solid state hydrogen storage system that can feed a fuel cell at the
required energy densities required on an aeroplane. 

Once the technology has been proven in a small scale demonstration, Prof. Gregory,
Hydrogen Horizons and the EADS IW team intend to build a larger collaborative
team with academic and industrial partners to seek large scale funding from the
UK and the European Union. 

Prof Gregory has carried out previous work on this technology funded by the Knowledge
Transfer Account at the University, which is funded by the EPSRC, and is designed
to promote closer collaboration between nanotechnology research at the university
and industry. 

Source: University of Glasgow
Wikipedia on hydrogen fuelled planes