Airbus Establishes Zero-Emission Development Centres In Europe

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Airbus has decided to concentrate its efforts for metallic hydrogen tanks in a complementary setup by creating Zero-Emission Development Centres (ZEDC) at its sites in Bremen (Germany) and in Nantes (France).

The goal of the ZEDC is to achieve cost-competitive cryogenic tank manufacturing to support the successful future market launch of ZEROe and to accelerate the development of hydrogen-propulsion technologies.

The design and integration of tank structures is crucial to the performance of a future hydrogen aircraft.

The technology developments will cover the full product and industrial capabilities from elementary parts, assembly, systems integration and the cryogenic testing of the final liquid hydrogen (LH2) tank system. Both ZEDCs will be fully operational by 2023 to build LH2 tanks with a first flight test scheduled for 2025.

Airbus Choses Bremen

Airbus chose its site in Bremen because of its diverse setup and decades of LH2 experience within Defence and Space and ArianeGroup.

The ZEDC in Bremen will initially focus on system installation as well as for the overall cryogenic testing of the tanks. Furthermore, this ZEDC will benefit from the wider hydrogen research ecosystem such as the Centre for Eco-Efficient Materials and Technologies (ECOMAT) and from further synergies from space and aerospace activities.

Airbus chose its site in Nantes because of its extensive knowledge in metallic structural technologies related to the centre wing box, including the safety-critical centre tank for commercial aircraft.

The ZEDC in Nantes will bring its ability to manage equally a wide range of metallic, composite technologies and integration as well as its experience in codesign activities on nacelle inlets, radomes and centre fuselage complex work packages.

The ZEDC will benefit from the Nantes Technocentre skills and capabilities, supported by an innovative local ecosystem such as the IRT Jules Verne.

In line with Northern German regional and the Pays de Loire ambitions, Airbus will foster cross-industry collaboration to support the overall transition to hydrogen-propulsion technologies, as well as the associated ground-based infrastructure in the region.

Safety-Critical Component

The tank is a safety-critical component, for which specific systems engineering is needed. LH2 is more challenging than kerosene because it needs to be stored at -250 °C to liquefy.

Liquidity is needed for increased density. For commercial aviation, the challenge is to develop a component which can withstand repeated thermal and pressure cycling which an aircraft application demands.

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A concept of the zero-emission aircraft by Airbus. Source: Airbus

It is expected that near-term LH2 tank structures for commercial aircraft applications will be metallic, however the potential performance opportunities associated with carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer composites are high.

Last year, Airbus revealed three concepts for the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft which could enter service by 2035.

These concepts each represent a different approach to achieving zero-emission flight, exploring various technology pathways and aerodynamic configurations in order to support the company’s ambition of leading the way in the decarbonisation of the entire aviation industry.

All of these concepts rely on hydrogen as a primary power source – an option which Airbus believes holds exceptional promise as a clean aviation fuel and is likely to be a solution for aerospace and many other industries to meet their climate-neutral targets.

“This is a historic moment for the commercial aviation sector as a whole and we intend to play a leading role in the most important transition this industry has ever seen. The concepts we unveil today offer the world a glimpse of our ambition to drive a bold vision for the future of zero-emission flight,” Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO said in a statement then.

Mr. Faury added that Airbus strongly believes that the use of hydrogen – both in synthetic fuels and as a primary power source for commercial aircraft – has the potential to significantly reduce aviation’s climate impact.

All the three concepts are codenamed ZEROe.

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