Airbus partners with CFM to develop hydrogen combustion technology

Initiative is expected to yield tangible results by 2035 in preparation for a zero-emission aircraft to enter-into-service

Airbus aims to bring the world's first emissions-free passenger plane into service by 2035. Photo: Airbus
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The world’s biggest plane maker Airbus is teaming up with engine manufacturer CFM International to test and pioneer hydrogen combustion technology.

The initiative is expected to yield tangible results, which will be enacted across the industry, by 2035, the entities said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

They aim to test a direct combustion engine fuelled by hydrogen in preparation for a zero-emission aircraft to enter-into-service by the same year.

Airbus and Ohio-based CFM will use an A380 flying test bed equipped with liquid hydrogen tanks prepared at Airbus facilities in France and Germany.

“This is the most significant step undertaken at Airbus to usher in a new era of hydrogen-powered flight since the unveiling of our ZEROe concepts back in September 2020,” Airbus’s chief technical officer Sabine Klauke said.

“By leveraging the expertise of American and European engine manufacturers to make progress on hydrogen combustion technology, this international partnership sends a clear message that our industry is committed to making zero-emission flight a reality,” Ms Klauke said.

Airbus said it will also work to define the hydrogen propulsion system requirements, oversee flight testing and provide the A380 platform to test the hydrogen combustion engine in cruise phase.

In September 2020, the Toulouse, France-based company revealed three designs it is considering for the hydrogen-powered aircraft as it seeks to bring the world's first emissions-free passenger plane into service.

This month, the company’s chief executive Guillaume Faury told a German newspaper that Airbus may soon make its own engines for its hydrogen-fuelled planes

About 60 companies in the aviation industry have committed to increasing to 10 per cent the share of sustainable aviation fuels on the market by 2030.

“Hydrogen combustion capability is one of the foundational technologies we are developing,” CFM’s chief executive and president Gael Meheust said.

“Bringing together the collective capabilities and experience of CFM, our parent companies and Airbus, we really do have the dream team in place to successfully demonstrate a hydrogen propulsion system,” Mr Meheust added.

CFM is a 50/50 joint venture between GE Aviation, a division of Boston’s General Electric, and French aerospace engine manufacturer Safran Aircraft Engines.

The company said it will modify the combustor, fuel system and control system of a turbofan to run on hydrogen. The engine was selected for this programme because of its physical size, advanced turbo machinery and fuel flow capability.

Updated: February 23, 2022, 7:11 AM