ALTEN Mag | New world: technological solutions to save the environment

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Hydrogen: decarbonising civil aviation by 2035

The hydrogen plane: a flagship and revolutionary project

In September 2020, Airbus announced that it wanted to develop a fully hydrogen aircraft by 2035. Alongside Airbus, ALTEN teams are working to meet this revolutionary objective to launch a zero-emission, totally carbon-free aircraft where hydrogen replaces kerosene.

Hydrogen is a fantastic source of energy with three times the yield of kerosene, making it a remarkable opportunity for decarbonisation. This “green plane” project is part of the stimulus plan promoted by the French government, thus benefitting from strong political and media visibility. The government’s involvement has helped to speed up its development.

Among the possible solutions, the partners are working on various technologies with two goals in mind: one, to develop internal combustion engines that will burn hydrogen instead of kerosene, and two, to use hydrogen to charge fuel cells which themselves will power electric motors. In both cases, the goal is to stop emitting CO2.

However, hydrogen is an energy that has major technological issues that need to be addressed and safety solutions that need to be implemented to mitigate any risk to the general public.

Its multi-sector influence is a real asset

In September 2020, Airbus announced that it wanted to develop a fully hydrogen aircraft by 2035. Alongside Airbus, ALTEN teams are working to meet this revolutionary objective to launch a zero-emission, totally carbon-free aircraft where hydrogen replaces kerosene.

Hydrogen planes pose design and operational challenges. It has the particularity of transporting hydrogen at -273 °C, but maintaining hydrogen at cryogenic temperature is not easy. The ALTEN teams are in fact working on the entire design as well as on the mechanical and thermal analysis in order to ensure the integrity of the hydrogen tank and guarantee passenger safety.

The only high-tech engineering and consulting company involved in the project, ALTEN acts as the technological bridge between the various partners by gathering feedback from the business lines, particularly in space: the Group has been working for ArianeGroup for more than 10 years on the development and manufacturing follow-up of space launchers using hydrogen as fuel. ALTEN Group’s position as a multi-specialist in several industrial sectors has indeed been decisive.

This R&D development partnership between Airbus and ALTEN represents a real opportunity for major innovation while responding to large-scale environmental challenges. Three aircraft concepts have been considered to date, and the first experiments are being studied to prepare for the arrival of hydrogen-powered aircraft in airports in 2035.