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On the path to climate-neutral flying: German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWK) funds a project to develop hydrogen fuel cell technology further
Tomorrow’s climate-neutral aviation will require propulsion technologies free of CO2. Hydrogen-electric propulsion systems with hydrogen fuel cell technology offer a promising option for regional aircraft, and the 328H2-FC project strongly supports this option. Led by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in cooperation with H2FLY, Deutsche Aircraft, Diehl Aviation, and six other partners, the project is the first to develop a fuel cell system with one and a half megawatts of power for use in flight. The project provides a technological perspective for future regional aircraft in the class with 40 seats. At the beginning of 2022, the BMWK presented the funding notification. The BMWK supports the realization of the first megawatt hydrogen fuel cell system for aviation with a funding volume of around 30 million euros.
Within the partnership, a Dornier 328 aircraft will be converted for passenger flight with hydrogen-electric fuel for the first time. This requires electrifying the propulsion system and integrating a fuel cell system with a cooling and liquid hydrogen tank. The 328H2-FC project paves the way to prove the potential of hydrogen for climate-neutral air travel. In 2025, the unique hybrid-electric powered demonstrator aircraft for EASA's large aircraft class (CS25) is scheduled to take off for the first time. Before that, tests of the fuel cell system to be developed are planned on a new ground test stand at the DLR.
Benno Petersen, Head of Innovation and R&T at Diehl Aerospace, states, "Our company participates with extensive research packages in the 328H2-FC project. This impressively documents our interest in this pioneering propulsion technology and underlines the supplier industry's important role in developing such innovative overall systems. "
During cruise flights, the hydrogen fuel cell energy system enables operating without CO2 emissions. Thus, a large portion of the flight distance can be covered in a completely climate-neutral manner. Initially, a gas turbine will provide additional thrust for the energy-intensive takeoff as part of the testing within the hybrid-electric concept.
Diehl Aviation is involved in the 328H2-FC research project as a system supplier with various focus points and will master the balancing act between heating and cooling within the hydrogen-based energy system. The areas of development focus on the design of the complete cooling system on board the aircraft. This includes sizing all its essential core components, including pumps, valves, and sensors. It also contains solutions for complex pipes, filters, and special equalization tanks. All these components must be extremely robust and, above all, highly reliable. At the same time, they have to meet special low weight requirements.
In addition, Diehl Aerospace is responsible for the new hydrogen-based power generation system. It controls all essential components for the robust operation of the fuel cell. The core is a highly available IMA platform that manages and performs safety-critical functions in parallel with absolute reliability and integrity. The system ensures, among other things, that the heat loss generated during fuel cell operation is reliably removed. It is also responsible for monitoring and switching voltages over 1000 volts and currents over 1000 amperes. Onboard the aircraft, new types of heavy-duty switches have to be able to switch power in the megawatt range.
Overall, the project thrives on the cooperation in a strong partner network of DLR, H2FLY, Deutsche Aircraft and Diehl Aviation (incl. Diehl Aerospace). Other project partners include AKG Verwaltungsgesellschaft mbH, Bauhaus Luftfahrt e.V., GE Aviation, HS Elektronik GmbH, Industrieanlagen-Betriebsgesellschaft mbH, and Premium Aerotec GmbH.
For the 328H2-FC project, the BMWK grants are made as part of the aeronautics research program (LuFo VI-2). DLR is the project leader. The project expands on the previous projects 328eHY-LAB and 328eHY-TECH (LuFo VI-1) led by Deutsche Aircraft.
DLR is the Federal Republic of Germany's research center for aeronautics and space. We conduct research and development activities in aeronautics, space, energy, transport, security, and digitalization. The German Space Agency at DLR plans and implements the national space program on behalf of the federal government. Two DLR project management agencies oversee funding programs and support knowledge transfer. Climate, mobility, and technology are changing globally. DLR uses the expertise of its 55 research institutes and facilities to develop solutions to these challenges. Our 10,000 employees (as of February 2021) share a mission – to explore Earth and space and develop technologies for a sustainable future. In doing so, DLR contributes to strengthening Germany's position as a prime location for research and industry.
For more information, click here: https://www.dlr.de
Founded on the proud heritage of Dornier and Germany’s reputation for engineering design, quality, and innovation, Deutsche Aircraft is the new specialized German aircraft original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Deutsche Aircraft builds on the legacy and expertise of 328 Support Services GmbH, the type certificate holder for the Dornier 328 aircraft (D328®). Deutsche Aircraft will enable the further development of the Do328® platform and exploit future technologies and capabilities to produce a more efficient, economic, and environmentally friendly aircraft. It will lead the way for the future of aviation in the transition to zero-emission flight. In collaboration with the German government, Deutsche Aircraft is leading the way to a new era of clean aviation and addressing the need to protect our planet to inspire future generations to fly in a more environmentally friendly, safer, and more efficient manner.
For more information, click here: www.deutscheaircraft.com
In 2014, five engineers from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Stuttgart and the University of Ulm founded H2FLY GmbH and paved the way for emission-free, sustainable flying. The company develops hydrogen-electric propulsion systems for aircraft. It is a global leader in developing and testing such systems: The Hy4, the first hydrogen-electric passenger aircraft, already took off in 2020 and demonstrated the feasibility and potential of the technology for future aviation. H2FLY has a strong network of partners in industry and science and is currently working to scale the technology supported by European and German funding. In a few years, hydrogen-electric aircraft are intended to transport 40 passengers across up to 2,500 km in range. In April 2021, H2FLY successfully closed a significant funding round. The funding assures growth, and H2FLY can begin the pending scaling of the technology and solve challenges.
For more information, click here: www.H2FLY.de
Diehl Aviation is one of the largest aviation suppliers in Germany and also participates in the field of hydrogen-based power generation systems. The system supplier is included in the 328H2-FC research project with different focus points. These entail solutions for hydrogen distribution and high-performance cooling for the hydrogen-based energy system. They also include highly reliable control of all system components and power switching in the megawatt class. Diehl Aviation - including Diehl Aerospace (a joint venture with Thales) - is a division of Diehl Stiftung & Co. KG and combines all aviation activities of Diehl Group under one roof. The company is a leading systems supplier of aircraft systems and cabin solutions. Diehl Aviation currently has more than 4,000 employees. Its clients include leading aircraft manufacturers, manufacturers of eVTOL aircraft, and airlines and operators of commercial and business aircraft worldwide.
For more information, click here: www.diehl.com/aviation
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Guido van Geenen
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