Welcoming the zero-emission concept aircraft ZEROe concepts by Airbus, German engine manufacturer MTU Aero Engines has announced it sees a future for three possible uses for hydrogen.

    If converted to sustainable aviation fuels, hydrogen can be used right away. And, highlighting the second possible use, Dr Stefan Weber, senior vice president technology & engineering of advanced programmes at MTU says: “Direct combustion of liquid hydrogen in gas turbines is possible in technical terms, too.”

    The company says this would require some adjustments in the engine, especially the combustion chamber, which Weber thinks could be done in just a few years.

    However, more challenges await infrastructure and aircraft manufacturers to find ways to provide and transport the liquid hydrogen and then carry it in suitable tanks inside the aircraft.

    Emissions-free flight

    MTU Aero Engines explains that, in the long term, it is relying on the third possible use of hydrogen: converting it into electricity by means of a fuel cell. This technology promises almost zero emissions but is still in the early stages of development in aircraft propulsion applications. “We call our fuel cell concept the flying fuel cell. We have an established team of experts working on it in Munich,” Weber explains. In August, MTU teamed up with the German Aerospace Center to launch a cooperative project with the aim of demonstrating the new technology in a Do228.

    According to the company, its development work is also focusing on the further development of the gas turbine to leverage the full amount of potential available. MTU is currently focusing on a concept that is known as a WET engine (water-enhanced turbofan) which reduces fuel consumption by more than 15 per cent regardless of fuel type, considerably lowering all emissions – especially NOx levels – and, according to initial estimates, also reducing formation of contrails.