Rolls-Royce successfully tests the world's first hydrogen-powered jet engine
Rolls-Royce has powered an aircraft engine using hydrogen instead of jet fuel-a first in the world of aviation. The British brand, along with its test partner EasyJet, utilized green hydrogen created by wind and tidal power, to fuel a converted Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A turboprop engine. The companies want to prove that hydrogen could play a major role in decarbonizing air travel.
Why does this story matter?
- The entire world of transportation is jumping on the sustainable mobility bandwagon and the aviation industry is no exception.
- It is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, and the usage of hydrogen as an alternative fuel can bring its goal of zero carbon emissions to fruition.
- Rolls-Royce's feat is an important milestone and a step in the right direction.
A detailed look at the test
The two companies conducted a ground-based test at Boscombe Down, a military aircraft testing site in England. As an alternative to jet fuel, green hydrogen from the Orkney Islands in Scotland was used. Rolls-Royce and EasyJet conducted their experiment on an AE 2100-A turboprop engine that powers both civilian as well as military aircraft. However, this trial did not involve flying an airplane.
Further trials are on the way
The duo sees a market potential for hydrogen-powered aircraft and is already planning a second set of trials. A full-scale ground trial of a Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 business jet engine, to demonstrate that using hydrogen will reduce carbon emissions, will be conducted. Rolls-Royce and EasyJet harbor an ambition to carry out flight tests. However, a definite timeline is not available.
Airbus is also interested in a similar project
Airbus wants to have a zero-emission aircraft in its service by 2035. Hence, it has joined hands with CFM International (a joint venture between General Electric and Safran) to develop an engine that could be propelled by hydrogen. The company will use an A380 superjumbo aircraft for the trial of its hydrogen-powered jet mills.
Hydrogen-powered aircraft will not be seen in near future
The switch to hydrogen as an alternative to jet fuel will take a lot of time. Plane makers will have to completely redesign the airframes (mechanical structures including wings, fuselage, and undercarriage) of the vehicles, and also upgrade the infrastructure at airports. Realistically, the reliance on traditional jet engines should continue at least until 2050. Research on sustainable mobility will continue in the meantime.