Aero Engines

Flying with Hydrogen as the Energy Carrier

Energy efficiency, reliability and heat management of hydrogen-powered aero engines

The aviation industry is becoming more and more subject to the public interest because of its impact on the environment. In civil aviation, aircraft engines are based on gas turbines. Despite continuous development and hence resulting efficiency gains, the set climate targets cannot be met using the conventional propulsion system exclusively. Alternative approaches are needed that produce lower or even zero emissions.

One of these new approaches involves the use of fuel cells. Together with oxygen from the ambient air, hydrogen stored in the aircraft is converted in fuel cells into electricity and water. The electricity is then used in an electric motor to drive the propeller. Thus, no emissions but water are produced during flight. The technological readiness level of fuel cells currently allows their application to smaller power classes up to 1MW only. Thus, their application is limited to small aircraft (CS-23) and short distances up to 1000km.

As part of an IBB ProFIT funding programme, the Chair for Aero Engines at the TU Berlin is involved in the optimised design and development of a hydrogen-powered, fuel cell-based hybrid-electric propulsion system. In this project, the chair is in close collaboration with the primary research partner APUS - Aviation Engineering GmbH. In this project, the overall propulsion system of the APUS i-2 is being modelled and further developed. This project is co-financed by the Europäische Fonds für regionale Entwicklung [EFRE].

The research focuses not only on the component behaviour but also on the interaction of the individual components of the whole propulsion system. For this purpose, models that reflect the component operating behaviour are linked in order to simulate the interaction within the overall propulsion system. A major technical challenge in the use of fuel cells is their heat management. The heat generated during cold combustion in fuel cells cannot be dissipated by the mass flow of exhaust gas, as it is in the case of gas turbines. Instead, an effective and reliable cooling system is necessary. Thus, in addition to the efficiency of the drive system, its heat management system must also be taken into account. In addition to the optimised design, the research also aims to assess the reliability of the propulsion system and thus to support its certification.

Person of contact: M.Sc. Mücahit Akkaya
Person of contact: M.Sc. Nicolai Neumann
Person of contact: Dipl.-Ing. Alexander Heinrich


Funded by the Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB) as part of the ProFit funding programme and co-financed by the Europäische Fonds für regionale Entwicklung (EFRE), 2020/2022