United Aircraft investigates nanotechnology

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Russia's United Aircraft is investing heavily in nanotechnology research and foresees an intial application for the compact storage of hydrogen for aerospace purposes.

A drawback to using hydrogen in aerospace applications such as fuel cells and its direct combustion in a turbine is that in its gaseous form it requires large pressurised tanks and as a liquid it requires cryogenic storage, all of which have mass penalties.

"We are conducting a very deep investigation [in nanotechnology]," says United Aircraft research and development director Vladimir Kargopolstev, speaking at the 3rd European Conference for Aerospace Sciences held in Paris earlier this month.

The company is studying compact hydrogen sources with the help of Russia's nuclear science centres and the Belarusian Institute of Nuclear Systems. Another application of nanotechnology that United Aircraft is examining is the use of diamond coatings.