Fuel cell team targets certification

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By Aimee Turner in Vienna

Aviation fuel cell researchers have launched discussions with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) aimed at developing a certification basis for the environment-friendly power technology.

Speaking at last month’s Aeronautic Days event in Vienna, Christine Schilo, European Union projects manager at Airbus Deutschland’s power-generation development unit, told delegates that researchers were defining fuel-cell system certification requirements for an eventual proposal to EASA. Airbus is co-ordinating the Fuel Cell Applications in a New Configured Aircraft (CELINA) project, part of an EC-funded Sixth Framework research initiative.

Schilo said efforts are continuing to reduce the weight and volume of a 400-600kW (540-800hp) fuel cell. “Fuel processing development remains challenging, however, and needs to be intensified through support from the EU under the Seventh Framework,” she said.

“We are taking a step-by-step approach. We will have a fuel-cell demonstrator for flight test in 2007. By the middle of the next decade, we would hope to have developed a ram-air turbine and fuel-cell emergency power system and by the end of the next decade, a fuel-cell power unit.”

At some point after 2030, she said, the “big vision” will be to have developed a primary fuel-cell power supply with alternate fuels. “This will be supported by an advanced aircraft system configuration, optimised electrical and mechanical systems, advanced cabin system concepts and new aircraft architecture concepts,” Schilo added.

She said that, based on an Airbus A330-300 widebody twinjet with average fuel consumption of 100,000 litres (26,380USgal) for a 10,000km (5,400nm) flight, 95% of fuel consumption was accounted for by propulsion systems. She said the maximum electrical energy generating capacity on a conventional aircraft was 40% and that with a fuel cell system, researchers were targeting an increase to 60%.