At the airport in Maribor, Slovenia, a significant event occurred in the field of aviation. German startup H2FLY has successfully tested a plane powered by liquid hydrogen. This technology, although still in an experimental phase, could represent a sustainable solution to reduce emissions in the aeronautical sector.
Liquid hydrogen, as you know, unlike fossil fuels, does not produce harmful emissions when burned. The flight of H2FLY not only demonstrates the technical feasibility of this solution, but also opens the door for further research and development in this area.
Liquid hydrogen, a new frontier?
Hydrogen has long been considered as a possible alternative to fossil fuels, but only recently have we seen concrete progress in this field. The German startup H2FLY is only the latest to have brought liquid hydrogen to the center of attention with this experimental flight.
H2FLY's propulsion system consists of hydrogen storage, a 120 kW fuel cell energy converter and an electric motor. Overall, this summer was H2FLY's eighth flight test campaign. The hydrogen-electric HY4 has been flying since 2016, but this summer's twist is to run the plane on liquid hydrogen, rather than hydrogen gas.
What is the difference?
Hydrogen can exist in both gaseous and liquid forms: while gaseous hydrogen is less dense and requires larger tanks, liquid hydrogen has a higher energy density, meaning it can store more energy in a smaller volume. This makes it particularly attractive for applications such as aviation, where space and weight are critical.
Of course, in addition to its advantages, liquid hydrogen also presents complications to overcome. For example, it must be stored at cryogenic temperatures, which can complicate resupply logistics. Further research and development is needed for it to become a common fuel source in aviation in the near future.
The research continues
H2FLY's test flight, which took two passengers into the sky for just over 3 hours, used just 10kg of hydrogen. If the entire fuel tank of the plane, which has a capacity of 24kg, had been used, the plane could have flown for 8 hours.
This explains why H2FLY isn't the only company interested in hydrogen as an aviation fuel. In cooperation with Deutsche Aircraft, the German startup is working to adapt a Dornier 2025 aircraft (an aircraft that can carry up to 328 passengers) to use liquid hydrogen fuel cells by 33.
Liquid hydrogen may not yet be ready for large-scale adoption, but H2FLY's test flight shows that perhaps we are on the right path. With further research and collaborations between companies and research institutions, we could see a cleaner sky and a more sustainable future for aviation.