Rolls-Royce undertakes critical cryogenic testing for hydrogen propulsion technology, marking a significant step in aviation innovation. Collaborating with EasyJet, their latest research focuses on overcoming engineering hurdles in delivering cryogenic liquid hydrogen to aircraft engines. With ongoing trials, the project aims to establish the safety and viability of hydrogen as an aviation fuel for future aircraft.
Rolls-Royce is spearheading groundbreaking research into hydrogen propulsion technology, initiating a crucial phase of cryogenic testing at its Solihull facility on December 19. This progressive testing is a pivotal step in Rolls-Royce's collaboration with low-cost carrier EasyJet, geared towards introducing hydrogen-powered engines for next-gen narrowbody airliners from the mid-2030s.
The current phase of testing concentrates on overcoming engineering challenges linked to handling low-pressure cryogenic liquid hydrogen, chilled to temperatures below minus 250°C (-418°F). The primary focus is on pressurizing the hydrogen for efficient delivery into aircraft engines for combustion. Rolls-Royce aims to verify the safety and functionality of critical processes involved in using hydrogen as aviation fuel—fuel combustion, delivery, and system integration with engines. This research, supported by the UK government's Aerospace Technology Institute, is slated to continue into 2024, emphasizing fuel delivery processes.
Previously, Rolls-Royce conducted tests using 100% hydrogen fuel in the full annular combustor of a Pearl 700 engine, developed for business jets, in collaboration with Germany's DLR aerospace research agency in Cologne.
The long-term vision includes comprehensive ground tests on a Pearl turbofan engine using gas and liquid hydrogen. Notably, in 2022, a world-first feat was achieved when an AE2100 engine ran entirely on 100% green hydrogen at the Boscombe Down test site in the UK, setting a significant benchmark.
EasyJet's Sustainability Director, Jane Ashton, highlights the potential impact of hydrogen in decarbonizing short-haul aviation. She expresses optimism about collaborating with Rolls-Royce to advance these transformative technologies, envisioning a paradigm shift in the aviation industry.
While Rolls-Royce remains silent on the sale of its Electrical division, their continued focus on hydrogen propulsion research suggests a strategic withdrawal only from the all-electric powertrain sector.
Rolls-Royce's rigorous hydrogen propulsion testing underscores a remarkable advancement in aviation technology. The collaboration with EasyJet and their pioneering research aims to revolutionize the aviation industry, potentially shaping the future of sustainable and eco-friendly air travel.