Aerospace manufacturer Rolls-Royce has successfully tested an early concept engine using hydrogen from wind and tidal power. It marks the world’s first aero engine to run on hydrogen.
The science and other stuff to know
The aviation industry is responsible for up to 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). To curb this global issue, many airplane manufacturers are trying to reduce carbon emissions by working to develop planes that use alternative fuels, such as hydrogen.
In an effort to prove hydrogen can safely and efficiently power plane engines, Rolls-Royce, in collaboration with Easyjet, has created an aero engine prototype that runs on hydrogen. The engine has passed the ground test and second-stage tests are underway. However, according to the company, flight tests remain a longer-term goal.
After the first successful ground test, Rolls-Royce representatives said, “it marked a major step towards proving that hydrogen could be a zero carbon aviation fuel of the future.”
Grazia Vittadini, Rolls-Royce CTO, said in a statement, “the success of this hydrogen test is an exciting milestone. We’re pushing the boundaries to discover the zero carbon possibilities of hydrogen, which could help reshape the future of flight.”
The appeal of hydrogen is in its ability to produce water vapor instead of carbon dioxide. This feature makes Rolls-Royce and Easyjet’s innovation very significant in the aviation industry’s goal of becoming net zero by 2050.
Another company, Hybrid Air Vehicles, is also developing sustainable, massive airships with zero carbon footprint.
Despite advancements in sustainable aviation, experts predict most airliners will continue to rely on traditional engines until the 2050s. Because designing electric planes or jet engines that run on fossil fuel alternatives like hydrogen is complex. So, if it ever happens, we would have to wait a bit longer for commercialized hydrogen-powered jet engines.