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Next-Generation Cryo-Electric Hydrogen-Powered Aviation
  • Jonas Kristiansen Nøland ,
  • Christian Hartmann ,
  • Runar Mellerud
Jonas Kristiansen Nøland
Norwegian University of Science and Technology

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Christian Hartmann
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Runar Mellerud
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Hydrogen-powered airplanes have recently attracted a revitalized push in the aviation sector to combat CO2 emissions. However, to also reduce, or even eliminate, non-CO2 emissions and contrails, the combination of hydrogen with all-electric solutions is undoubtedly the best option to move toward the ambitious goal of climate-neutral aviation. Another important design choice is to store hydrogen cryogenically in its liquid form (LH2) to reduce space occupation compared to storage as compressed gas. However, the LH2 fuels cannot be utilized directly in fuel cells. It needs to be brought from liquid to a gas at about 350 K, where large amounts of heat must be added. Thus, a synergy can be made from this otherwise wasted cryogenic refrigeration power where superconducting machines (SCMs) and cold power electronics (CPE) are low-hanging fruits that could lead to radical space and weight reductions onboard the aircraft. These opportunities can be realized without having to pay the price, nor the volume occupation and mass needed for the cooling ability usually needed to achieve these extraordinary performances. In fact, this ground-breaking synergy makes cryogenic energy conversion relevant in a whole new way for aviation. The SCMs’ more than five times higher power densities than their conventional counterparts are exceptionally significant. This article introduces the recently proposed cryo-electric drivetrain initiatives and explores the opportunities of using direct hydrogen cooling as a potential heating solution to enhance the overall performance and scalability of zero-emission propulsion systems in future regional aircraft.