Horizon Europe’s liquid hydrogen energy storage project for net-zero aircraft

The OVERLEAF project intends to decarbonize the atmosphere by developing a revolutionary liquid hydrogen storage tank to power hydrogen-powered aircraft.

The project, which is supported by Horizon Europe, was initiated in May 2022 and will last for three years. OVERLEAF is a 10-member partnership from six European nations, led by Aciturri Engineering and comprised of numerous aeronautics industry leaders and academics. The project will result in the creation of a liquid hydrogen storage tank that will considerably increase the viability of hydrogen-powered air travel.

Decarbonization of the aviation industry

The EU is vigorously pursuing climate neutrality and sustainability, and hydrogen power offers a promising alternative for achieving these objectives. The European Green Deal seeks to reduce transportation emissions by 90% compared to 1990 levels by 2050, with air travel accounting for 3.8% of total CO2 emissions in 2017.

In addition, the aviation industry produces 13.9% of all transport-related emissions, making it the second greatest producer of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions, behind only road transport. This makes aviation a crucial target for achieving net-zero emissions goals.

Hydrogen-powered propulsion is an effective means of achieving these objectives. Hydrogen, unlike kerosene, eliminates all CO2 emissions and the most hazardous non-CO2 pollutants, including carbon monoxide, methane, soot particles, and oxidized sulphur compounds. It only emits water vapor and hardly no nitrogen oxides.

Hydrogen-powered aircraft do exist, but the cost of storing and utilizing hydrogen as a fuel for extended flights renders their use impractical. Due to stringent limits on weight, volume, and cost-effectiveness, the absence of hydrogen storage devices in airplanes is the primary impediment.

OVERLEAF pioneers liquid hydrogen energy storage

To facilitate the transition to hydrogen-powered aircraft, the OVERLEAF project is building a cutting-edge liquid hydrogen storage tank. The concept of liquid hydrogen storage is founded on the combination of advanced functional and high-performance materials, thermal insulating materials, and hydrogen leak detecting sensors.

OVERLEAF will reduce the liquid hydrogen tank’s mass by fifty percent. This will allow the weight and volume of the aircraft to be reduced, hence reducing its energy requirements and increasing its economics of construction and operation.

Additionally, a liquid hydrogen propulsion system will be created. This innovative fuel cell technology will produce up to two or three times the power density of conventional fuel cell systems, with efficiencies of up to 55 to 60 percent (LHV).

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