The Dash 8 aircraft flew on the worlds largest hydrogen fuel

The Dash-8 aircraft flew on the world’s largest hydrogen fuel cell

A Universal Hydrogen-modified Dash-8 airliner completed a 15-minute flight to the United States, relying on the capabilities of aviation’s largest hydrogen fuel cell. Loud head Universally applicable hydrogen Pavel Eremenko, the event marks the offensive “new golden age of aviation“. Although the flight was short, it demonstrated the flyability of hydrogen aircraft.

    Image Credit: Universal Hydrogen

Image Credit: Universal Hydrogen

Used primarily for regional flights, the Dash-8 typically carries up to 50 passengers. In this case, the plane, named Lightning McClean, had only two pilots and an engineer on board, as well as a lot of additional equipment, including an electric motor and a huge fuel cell. In the cabin were racks with electronics and sensors, as well as two tanks with 30 kg of hydrogen. The magniX electric motor was powered by a fuel cell developed by Plug Power with an output of 800 kW. Eremenko does not exclude that his company’s development may become the first hydrogen aircraft approved to operate on passenger flights.

Aviation is reported to be responsible for 2.5% of CO2 emissions today, with the potential to rise to 4%, and hydrogen cell electric motors are virtually green. However, the mass adoption of hydrogen aviation is still a long way off. If an electric motor was used on one wing, then on the second – a conventional Pratt and Whitney turboprop, twice as powerful. This additional “safety margin” made it possible to obtain a test license from the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Part of the problem is that fuel cells are difficult to cool because the electrochemical nature of fuel cells requires special solutions to maintain an acceptable temperature. However, according to Universal Hydrogen, the fuel cell used by the company can run all day without overheating thanks to large vents.

Another problem is the low energy intensity and, accordingly, the problem of hydrogen storage on board. Even with liquefied hydrogen, it is four times lower than conventional aviation fuel – a 15-minute flight used more than half the gaseous hydrogen supply. This year, the company plans to switch to more “concentrated” liquid hydrogen.

    Image Credit: Universal Hydrogen

Image Credit: Universal Hydrogen

To store liquid hydrogen, Universal Hydrogen has developed standardized modules that can be easily connected to the fuel system of cars, airplanes and other devices and replaced if necessary. The existing design makes it possible to keep hydrogen in the liquid state for up to 100 hours. The company has already garnered $2 billion in “fuel service” contracts over the next decade.

Prototypes of the hydrogen modules were demonstrated in December, and the company hopes to begin building a facility in New Mexico later this year. While many doubt the wisdom of using hydrogen, Yeryomenko is confident he will make the technology work, especially with the government’s subsidies for green hydrogen solutions under the Inflation Mitigation Act.

Investments in the company are approaching $100 million, including earnings from Airbus, General Electric, American Airlines, JetBlue and Toyota. As early as 2025, the startup wants to start shipping kits to convert aircraft like the Dash-8 to run on hydrogen fuel. Pre-orders have already been received from 16 companies with a total value of more than 1 billion US dollars. Connect Airlines is said to be the first user of the technology in the USA.

About the author

Dylan Harris

Dylan Harris is fascinated by tests and reviews of computer hardware.

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