Flight. The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), parent of Airbus, is researching techniques for the on-board reforming of jet fuel to hydrogen for use in combustion enrichment or to power a fuel-cell APU.
EADS says its patented system would employ a catalyst that reacts under “relatively low temperature and pressure conditions”, but it remains unclear whether the process could yield sufficient hydrogen to power an APU. The residual hydrocarbons would be used directly for combustion or returned to the kerosene tank. Aircraft integration issues are being addressed as part of the project.
Speaking at a media briefing in Bremen, Germany on 29 January, EADS chief technology officer Jean Botti said a fuel cell APU was “for sure a strong contender” for use on Airbus’ eventual next-generation narrowbody A320 replacement. Airbus flew a fuel cell demonstrator last year as part of efforts to develop “more electric” aircraft and eliminate conventional gas turbine APUs
Botti said EADS was also studying a separate process known as hydrogen enrichment, which would inject hydrogen into an engine’s combustion chamber with the aim of reducing emissions of unburned hydrocarbon pollutants. Botti, who worked on applying this process to automotive engines in his previous role as chief of technology for US engineering company Delphi, declines to provide further details “until intellectual property rights have been secured"”.