Multifunctional fuel cell technology research wins Airbus important European environmental award
The award-winning Airbus Multifunctional Fuel Cell Integration project team (photo: Airbus)
Fri 13 Sept 2013 – Airbus has been presented with the prestigious GreenTec Award in the aviation category for its research into integrating fuel cell technology as an alternative energy source in commercial aircraft. The research analyses the replacement of an aircraft’s auxiliary power unit (APU) and the ram air turbine by a multifunctional fuel cell. A fuel cell produces electricity by combining hydrogen with oxygen and the electrical energy can be used both for conventional aircraft systems and also for main engine starting and emissions-free autonomous ground operations at airports. The Airbus research is also focusing on the by-products of the electrochemical process – pure water, heat and inert gas (mainly nitrogen) – which can be efficiently used in other systems of the aircraft.
The inert nitrogen gas can replace common halon-based fire suppression systems for the cargo hold and may be used for inerting the fuel tanks, says Airbus. The water can also be used in the water supply system of the aircraft. Another benefit is a significant reduction in overall aircraft weight – and the resulting reduction in fuel burn and emissions in flight – as well as reducing noise and emissions during ground operations at airports.
“Airbus has always been a driver in making aviation more environmentally friendly and invests around €2 billion ($2.6bn) per year in R&D to improve our aircraft’s performance,” said Airbus COO Günter Butschek. “Fuel cells are one of the most promising ‘step change’ technologies to make our aircraft even more efficient, cleaner and quieter. The recognition of our fuel cell project at the GreenTec Awards underlines the relevance of our activities.”
Presented this year in Berlin, the GreenTec Awards recognise projects focused on eco-management and environmentally-friendly technologies, with the jury made up of representatives from engineering, business and the media.
In other Airbus related technology news, the first engine start of CFM International’s most advanced LEAP-1A engine that will power the A320neo aircraft has taken place in the United States, marking the start of the ground testing programme. CFM claims the new design and materials used in the engine will reduce fuel burn, emissions and noise by double-digit margins. First delivery of the A320neo (‘new engine option’) is planned for late 2015.
All members of the A320 Family have now achieved EASA-certification for the Airbus Sharklet. The Sharklet wing-tip devices replace the current wing-tip fence and are claimed to reduce fuel burn and emissions by up to 4%. They are available as an option on new-build A320 Family aircraft and will be standard on the A320neo. So far over 125 Sharklet aircraft have been delivered to more than 35 operators.