Tue. Jan 31st, 2023

As the industry grows, the rising concern for safer and cleaner travel also rises. With the number of airplanes flying around the globe at the moment, they single-handedly contribute to damaging the ozone layer alone than any other thing. Aviation is an essential element of the world economy. Still, it also contributes significantly to releasing harmful greenhouse gases and is one of the hardest sectors to clean up since producing electric planes is more complex than producing electric cars. Renewable solar and wind energy-powered batteries are still too heavy for extended flights. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers are thus attempting to create aircraft that can run on cleaner fuels like hydrogen, which, when burnt, creates water vapor rather than carbon dioxide.

(EUACTIV)

The companies Rolls-Royce and EasyJet in Europe stated that they have successfully tested a hydrogen jet engine, which might one day be used to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from aviation. The test is hailed as a significant accomplishment and a crucial step toward the decarbonization of the sector, with plans to test the technology in flight. The tests used a modified Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A regional aircraft engine and were conducted outside the Ministry of Defense Boscombe Down military testing facility in England. The experiment was conducted in collaboration with airline EasyJet, which has been taking steps toward clean aviation of its own. Although hydrogen has a higher energy density than batteries, an aircraft would require approximately four times as much liquid hydrogen as jet fuel to travel the same distance. Additionally, liquid hydrogen must be maintained under pressure and cooled to -253C. The fuel tanks and systems required to transfer the hydrogen to the engines would need to be far bigger and more complex, necessitating a full redesign of the aircraft. For instance, a Boeing 747 jumbo jet would need more than 1 million liters of hydrogen to get roughly the same range as 250,000 liters of jet fuel. Despite the challenges, EasyJet is convinced that hydrogen is the future.

First Hydrogen Jet Engine
(METRO UK)

While operating a modified jet engine on hydrogen is a significant step to take, where the hydrogen comes from is just as significant. The process of steam-methane reformation, which produces hydrogen, includes separating hydrogen atoms from methane and produces carbon dioxide. However, green hydrogen is gaining popularity as the globe moves toward greener energy sources. This is created by electrolyzing water and is driven by renewable energy, resulting in zero emissions. In this instance, the Rolls-Royce engine was propelled by green hydrogen produced at a plant in the UK’s Orkney Islands using wind and tidal energy.

After completing this preliminary concept demonstration, Rolls-Royce and EasyJet are preparing to conduct a second round of tests. The roadmap then calls for extensive ground testing of a Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 jet engine, with flying tests in the future as longer-term goals. The dream of net zero emissions by 2050 is well and truly alive and underway.

Sources

https://www.theverge.com/2022/11/29/23483889/rolls-royce-easyjet-hydrogen-fuel-jet-engine-test

https://newatlas.com/aircraft/rolls-royce-first-hydrogen-jet-engine/

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