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Hamburg project testing use of liquid hydrogen in aviation maintenance and ground processes

In Hamburg, a new development platform is being launched to test hydrogen technology in aviation from as early as 2022. Funded by the Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Lufthansa Technik will work with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Center for Applied Aeronautical Research (ZAL) and Hamburg Airport over the next two years to design and test maintenance and ground processes in handling hydrogen technology.

For this purpose, an aircraft of the Airbus A320 family will be converted into a stationary laboratory at Lufthansa Technik’s base in Hamburg. Liquid hydrogen (LH2) is increasingly being more concretely envisaged in the development departments of large aircraft manufacturers as a sustainably producible fuel for future generations of commercial aircraft.

In order to investigate the effects of the use of LH2 on maintenance and ground processes at an early stage, Lufthansa Technik, DLR, ZAL and Hamburg Airport are now pooling their extensive practical and scientific expertise. The aim is to develop a pioneering demonstrator, and to operate it from 2022.

As the world’s third largest aviation industry cluster, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg is funding the research project with the largest single item in its special program to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation industry.


This graphic depicts examples of potential fields of application for liquid hydrogen in and on future aircraft (blue arrows) as well as at the airport (ground vehicles) and its periphery (refueling systems). The blue arrows outline potential fields of application in the aircraft: for example, satellite communications as well as galleys, cabin or IFE systems could be powered by electricity from a fuel cell in the future. The project partners will determine in the coming months which fields of application will actually be investigated in more detail in the practical evaluation. (Image Source: Hamburg Marketing)

In the first phase of the project, by the end of 2021 the partners aim to identify the most urgent fields of development for closer scientific examination and, on this basis, to elaborate the concept for subsequent practical testing.

The practical implementation of the concept will start at the beginning of 2022 and will involve the modification of a decommissioned Airbus A320 aircraft. It will be equipped with an LH2 infrastructure to be used as a fully functional field laboratory at Lufthansa Technik’s base in Hamburg.

In parallel, a virtual environment is being created at DLR that will be used to achieve digital and highly accurate mapping of the defined development fields. The new development platform is to provide inspiration for the design process of the next generation of aircraft by means of parameterized and highly accurate virtual models.

Against this background, Lufthansa Technik will primarily contribute its operational expertise in the maintenance and modification of commercial aircraft, and can also incorporate the customer perspective through its close contact with airlines around the world.

DLR will add its long-standing and cross-sector experience with hydrogen, and focus on the development of the virtual environment. ZAL will also participate with its extensive know-how in the field of fuel cell technology and its digital process mapping.

As an associated project partner, Hamburg Airport will primarily contribute its experience from the operator’s perspective, for example in defining requirements for the ground handling process of future LH2-powered aircraft.

There is no alternative to the transformation of our industry towards climate-neutral flying. With this project, we want to tackle this enormous technological challenge at an early stage—for the entire MRO [maintenance, completions, repair, and overhaul] industry as well as for us. In this way, we are actively securing the future, because we are building up know-how today for the maintenance and ground processes of the day after tomorrow. I am therefore pleased that we have succeeded in joining forces with strong partners in this project. And I am very grateful for the foresight of the city of Hamburg and its generous funding for this project.

—Dr. Johannes Bussmann, Chief Executive Officer of Lufthansa Technik AG

With some 35 subsidiaries and affiliates, the Lufthansa Technik Group is one of the leading providers of technical aircraft services in the world. Certified internationally as maintenance, production and design organization, the company has a workforce of more than 22,000 employees. Lufthansa Technik’s portfolio covers the entire range of services for commercial and VIP/special mission aircraft, engines, components and landing gear in the areas of digital fleet support, maintenance, repair, overhaul, modification, completion and conversion as well as the manufacture of innovative cabin products.



OK, so they aren't planning to run the turbines on H2 yet - phew.
The shape of the liquid H2 tank suggests it was designed by an artist rather than an engineer. If they can run all the electrics from fuel cell, it might work, leave more of the fossil power to push the plane.
IMO, if you want large amounts of H2 on a plane, you will need to redesign it to allow a large round or oval shaped volume near the turbines or fuel cells. (i.e a round ended cylinder (or cylinders)).
You can't just stick it down the back under the floor like the extra avgas tank for he A321 XLR.


liquid hydrogen, not compressed

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