A U.K. government-backed research firm, Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) has launched a new liquid-hydrogen-powered airliner concept called FlyZero.
It is claimed that this 279-seater aircraft will function the same as a traditional midsize aircraft, but without producing carbon emissions.
The FlyZero aircraft is from the line of aircraft that the company is launching. In the aircraft, hydrogen will be stored in cryogenic fuel tanks, keeping it at a temperature of minus 250°Celsius (minus 418°Fahrenheit). Two cryogenic tanks will be placed at the rear of the plane, while two smaller “cheek” tanks will be placed near the front of the plane to keep the aircraft balanced. It will have a wingspan of 54 meters, each of which will have a turbofan engine attached.
“These designs could define the future of aerospace and aviation,” said U.K. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng in the ATI’s statement. “By working with industry, we are showing that truly carbon-free flight could be possible, with hydrogen a frontrunner to replace conventional fossil fuels.”
The company states that its “highly-efficient hydrogen-powered aircraft” will “have superior operating economics compared to conventional aircraft from the mid-2030s onwards.” The ATI has received £1.95 billion ($2.6 billion) in funding since it was founded in 2013. The FlyZero concept program gained £15 million of that funding.
Hydrogen propulsion is being seen as a way of cutting down carbon emissions from the aviation industry. There are other options being considered too like drop-in fuels for existing aircraft, as well as electric propulsion airliners.
However, current battery technologies aren’t advanced enough to enable electric aircraft to fly for long. For example, NASA’s experimental electric Maxwell X-57 light aircraft can only fly for 40 minutes at a time, giving it a range of 100 miles on one charge.
If hydrogen is to be used as aviation fuel, a great amount of work is needed to build necessary airport refueling infrastructure over the coming years. companies like Airbus are working on hydrogen-fueled aircraft as well. This will be a giant leap for the industry.