A research project has started in Hamburg to test the maintenance and ground processes of future aircraft generations with alternative engines. For this purpose, an Airbus A320 is also being equipped with a hydrogen infrastructure.
Among others, Lufthansa Technik, DLR, ZAL and Hamburg Airport are involved in the project, which is funded by the Hanseatic City of Hamburg. In the next two years, the project partners say they want to “design and test extensive maintenance and ground processes in dealing with hydrogen technology”.
In hydrogen technology, the project does not rely on the gaseous storage of hydrogen under high pressure, but on liquid hydrogen – called LH2. For this, the gas must be cooled to below -253 degrees Celsius so that it liquefies. The advantages are the much higher energy density and the simpler refuelling process of a liquid. The disadvantage is that these extreme minus degrees have to be kept constant, which requires additional energy.
In the aviation industry, however, the advantages of LH2 seem to outweigh the disadvantages: “Liquid hydrogen (LH2) is increasingly being more concretely envisaged in the development departments of large aircraft manufacturers as a sustainably producible fuel for future generations of commercial aircraft,” the statement says. The research project was set up to investigate the effects of LH2 on Biden handling at the airport at an early stage.
The goal is to jointly develop a future-oriented demonstrator and to operate it from 2022. Lufthansa Technik is contributing an aircraft from the Airbus A320 family here, which will be equipped with the corresponding tanks. The ground tests will then be carried out jointly with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Center for Applied Aviation Research (ZAL) and Hamburg Airport.
By the end of 2021, the first phase will identify “the most urgent areas of development for closer scientific consideration”, with practical implementation on the decommissioned aircraft to start from the beginning of 2022. “There is no alternative to the transformation of our industry towards climate-neutral flying,” says Johannes Bußmann, Chairman of the Executive Board of Lufthansa Technik AG. “With this project, we want to tackle this enormous technological challenge at an early stage – for the entire MRO industry as well as for us. In this way, we are actively securing the future, because we are building up know-how today for the maintenance and ground processes of the day after tomorrow.”
In parallel, a virtual environment is being created at DLR, by means of which a digital and highly accurate mapping of the previously defined development fields is to be achieved. The new development platform is intended to provide impetus for the design process of the next generation of aircraft through parameterised and highly accurate virtual models. “We need to learn – promptly and in detail – the requirements on aircraft and maintenance of real-world operation with hydrogen on the ground,” says Markus Fischer, DLR Director of the Aeronautics Division. “In the project, we are using this data and experience to develop digital models for ground processes. These digital process twins can then be used directly in the design of future-oriented and yet practicable aircraft configurations.”