Hydrogen is expected to play a key role in the decarbonisation strategy of aviation as it can power aircraft efficiently, leaving water as the only by-product. H2GEAR puts GKN Aerospace at the heart of the technology developments needed for the future of more sustainable aviation. The technology will first focus on significantly improving sub-regional aircraft hydrogen powered performance, in turn enabling applications on larger aircraft and longer journeys. The programme is supported by £27 million of ATI funding, matched by GKN Aerospace and its industrial partners.
H2GEAR aims to develop a liquid hydrogen propulsion system for sub-regional aircraft that could be scaled up to larger aircraft. Liquid hydrogen is being converted to electricity within a fuel cell system. This electricity efficiently powers the aircraft, eliminating CO2 emissions. This would create a new generation of clean air travel, eliminating harmful CO2 emissions.
H2GEAR will reinforce the UK’s position at the forefront of aerospace technology research and development. GKN Aerospace will collaborate with Intelligent Energy, Aeristech, Newcastle University, The University of Manchester and University of Birmingham, throughout the programme, aiming to create more than 3,000 jobs in the next decade. The programme will be delivered from GKN Aerospace’s Global Technology Centre in Bristol, the company’s £32m brand-new collaborative space for research and development.
Russ Dunn, chief technology officer for GKN Aerospace, said: “Hydrogen-powered aircraft offer a clear route to keep the world connected, with dramatically cleaner skies. The UK is at the forefront of this technology, and the H2GEAR project is an example of industry, academia and Government collaboration at its best. Working with our partners, and made possible by Government investment, GKN Aerospace will develop and industrialise the breakthrough technology to fly aircraft with zero CO2 emissions by the mid-2020s. This will not only create thousands of jobs, but it will keep the UK at the forefront of the next generation of cleaner air travel for decades to come.”
David Woolhouse, CEO at Intelligent Energy, said: “We have a very exciting programme of work over the next few years, including developing leading lightweight fuel cell modules for aerospace. This programme will see us develop the next generation of fuel cell technology and supports the growth of manufacturing right here in the East Midlands. We are planning to increase our manufacturing capability with a new state-of-the-art Gigafactory facility in the region, positioning the East Midlands as a centre of hydrogen fuel cell manufacturing in the UK. The entry-into-service of the first hydrogen-powered aircraft could be as early as 2026.”
Duncan Kerr, CEO of Aeristech, said: “This is a truly ground-breaking programme for hydrogen technology, bringing together some of the UK’s most established organisations for a cutting edge clean aviation solution. Aeristech’s world leading power dense and efficient compressor technology will play a vital role in powering GKN Aerospace’s first hydrogen propulsion system, helping to bring hydrogen-powered air travel closer to reality.”
GKN Aerospace will use its long term experience and in-depth knowledge of electrical power systems and propulsion technology to accelerate the development of technology. The entry-into- service of the first hydrogen-powered aircraft could be as early as 2026.