MIAMI – To be able to maintain its goal for a first all liquid hydrogen (LH2) test flight in 2025, Airbus plans two Zero Emission Development Centers (ZEDC) in France and Germany.

To perform a first test flight by 2025, Airbus has to achieve processes to manufacture a cost-effective cryogenic tank, as a support to a future market for a ZEROe aircraft, while accelerating the development of LH2 propulsion technology and the integration of a tank structure, a crucial point to the performance of a future LH2 fueled aircraft.

The new technology will have to cover all aspects of the product as well as industrial capabilities: elementary parts, assembly, systems integration, and final testing of the cryogenic LH2 tank system.

AirbusZEROe Blended Wing Body Concept. Photo: Airbus Media

Zero Emissions Development Centers

According to an Airbus press release issued on June 14, there will be two zero-emission development centers established. The two ZEDC, to be fully operational by 2023, will have to build LH2 tanks in time for the 2025 planned test flight.

One of the centers will be located in Germany’s Bremen which already has a setup and a long experience on LH2 within its activity with the Ariane Group, and Defence and Space. The mission of this center focuses on system installation and cryogenic testing of the tanks while availing itself of the experience on hydrogen research developed by ECOMAT (Center for eco-efficient materials and technologies).

The second ZEDC will be located in Nantes (NTE) where Airbus has developed an extensive know-how in metallic structural technologies specifically related to the center wing box which includes all the safety-critical center tank on commercial aircraft. The NTE ZEDC has extensive capabilities in a wide range of metallic and composites technologies integration as well as experience on nacelles inlets, radomes, and center fuselage complex work.

Airbus ZERO-e Concept Aircraft. Photo: Airbus Media

Airbus Facing Technological Challenge

Considering that LH2 is a more challenging fuel when compared to classic jet fuel, the tanks become an even more safety-critical component keeping in mind the necessity to store it at – 250 Celsius to attain a liquid state, a necessity to increase density.

On a commercial aircraft, the development of a tank capable of withstanding repetitive thermal and pressure cycles is a highly challenging task; hence, the two development centers.

The near-term solution for commercial aircraft will consist of a metallic tank but the potential performances of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer composites will also offer other opportunities.

Featured image; Airbus ZERO-e concept aircraft formation flight – Photo : Airbus Media