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Airbus developing innovative cryogenic tanks to support hydrogen-powered flight; targeting demonstrator tank by 2026-2028

Airbus is developing innovative cryogenic hydrogen storage tanks to support future aircraft fueled by liquid hydrogen. Liquid hydrogen needs to be stored at -253 °C.

In its simplest terms, says Airbus, there are two main technologies that enable an aircraft to fly directly with hydrogen. You can power an engine with hydrogen combustion through modified gas turbine engines, and you can use hydrogen fuel cells to create electrical power. And you can deploy a hybrid approach that uses a mixture of both technologies.

Regardless of these options there is a constant at work: liquid hydrogen needs to be stored at -253°C, and kept at that temperature consistently throughout the whole flight, even when the tanks are depleted.

Storage tanks for a hydrogen-powered aircraft are therefore an absolutely essential component, but they are completely different to those you might find on a traditional aircraft.

About 15 months ago, Airbus established Zero Emission Development Centers (ZEDCs) in Nantes, France, and Bremen, Germany, with the task of designing and manufacturing the hydrogen tanks

Bremen is close to Ariane Group and Airbus Defence and Space, with their experience working with hydrogen, and Nantes has considerable expertise with metallic structures. The tank is manufactured in Nantes, and the coldbox, which takes care of the gasification of the liquid hydrogen, is produced in Bremen.

This tank isn’t just innovative technically—it represents a departure from traditional processes. Embracing a dynamic and agile working methodology, the teams adopted a co-development approach where in order to progress quickly they accepted the need to innovate, test, fail fast, and adapt. In short, the teams get straight into manufacturing a prototype, which they test and learn from before developing an improved prototype, rather than spending a lot of time working on theoretical plans.

This speed is highlighted by the progress made at the site in Nantes, where the team took an empty warehouse and built the first cryogenic hydrogen tank ever produced at Airbus in a little over a year.

The journey to bringing this new technology to market goes something like this:

  • Engineers design the cryogenic hydrogen tanks on software in Toulouse.

  • These designs are passed onto the teams in Nantes and Bremen, who review them and explore the process for manufacture.

  • Once the design is agreed, the first prototype tank—which is tested with nitrogen, not hydrogen—is developed. This is where Airbus is now.

The insights and testing data is collated and all of this information goes into the design for a second prototype, to be filled with hydrogen. Airbus is looking in particular at maximizing space, improving performance, and simplifying the manufacturing process. Work on the second tank is already underway and will take around another year to build and test.

The final objective is to have a tank ready to install in the A380 demonstrator by 2026-2028.



Gryf will be sceptical about this!
He has considerable expertise in the field.

Since I have no such handicap, I remain optimistic!

Helluva advance, if only it can be made to work, since liquid hydrogen can give similar or better range than jet fuel, without emissions save for contrail hassles.

Needs completely different aircraft design to accommodate the tanks for long range, but I leave such details to mere technologists to sort out.....;-)


I guess AB are hedging their bets and trying to get as much IP on liquid H2 storage as possible, before other people get into it.
It probably won't cost that much, but they could pickup some valuable patents here.
If H2 is not needed (or stored as something other than a liquid), they won't have lost too much, but if it is a good approach, they will have a shed full of valuable IP.


Airbus have not gone solid on their plans just yet, they say:

' At Airbus, we see two primary uses for hydrogen:

Hydrogen propulsion: Hydrogen can be combusted through modified gas-turbine engines or converted into electrical power that complements the gas turbine via fuel cells. The combination of both creates a highly efficient hybrid-electric propulsion chain powered entirely by hydrogen.
Synthetic fuels: Hydrogen can be used to create e-fuels, which are generated exclusively through renewable energy. Hydrogen produced using renewable electricity is combined with carbon dioxide to form a carbon fuel with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

We expect to make the necessary decisions on the best combination of hydrogen technologies by 2025.'

But they are keener on using pure hydrogen rather than a synfuels route than Boeing:

' Airbus has said it will produce a small "ZEROe" passenger aircraft powered by hydrogen to enter service in 2035.

It told the European Union a year ago that most airliners will rely on traditional jet engines until at least 2050, according to a briefing made public last June.

Even so, Airbus officials say the research will seed disruptive technology likely to play a role in the next generation of larger airplanes, as well as offering radically new technology for small planes holding some 50-100 people.

Boeing (BA.N)has so far been cooler towards hydrogen and placed greater emphasis on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).

In a sign of growing alignment with Airbus on alternative technologies, CFM said last year a separate next-generation jet engine called RISE, which it hopes to offer for larger jets from 2035, would be capable of running on fuels including hydrogen.

The new engine demonstrator will burn hydrogen fuel in the combustion chamber in place of jet fuel. The companies declined to disclose the cost of the research project.'

Thomas Pedersen


Similar or better range... Not if they intend to have passengers (or cargo) on the planes.

Early Airbus renderings of liquid hydrogen planes featured no windows aft of the wings and a 2000 nm range.

Even liquid hydrogen is vastly inferior to jet fuel on a per-volume basis. Past 4-5000 nm range, LH2 tanks take up the entire fuselage.


Hi Thomas:

Yep, if you stuck hydrogen tanks into present long range aircraft designs, then you would end up with limited accommodation, inferior range etc.

Which is why I said:

'Needs completely different aircraft design to accommodate the tanks for long range,'

Check out the blended wing design here:

In reality, shorter range is what can be realistically done within a reasonable time frame, or maybe hybrid designs, with SAF likely for transcontinental.


They'll have to make larger planes to accommodate larger tanks, unless there is a breakthrough like ammonia or some other storage mechanism.
Or they might find a way of making e-fuels which match existing jet fuels.
One advantage of jet fuels is that they can be stored at atmospheric pressure so you can put them in flat tanks in the wings; something you cannot do with pressurized or cryofuels.
So we will end up with larger planes and higher costs.
Or maybe they could do a "true offset" system where they actually offset CO2 by building nukes or whatever and use this as their ticket to net zero aviation.



Yep, more volume means that in some respects planes would need to be 'larger'.

But what that means varies.

Bat-wing designs should mean that overall length and width would remain fairly comparable.

And more bang by weight sure helps.

The bigger issues are not only that we have not yet perfected the cyrogenics, but that a total redesign of layout takes a heck of a lot of time and money.

My view remains that liquid hydrogen would be a great way of powering flight, but pulling it off is tough.


If I had to make predictions, I would predict that short-haul and regional flights up to 1000 or maybe 1500 km will be battery electric and long-haul flights will use so-called "sustainable" fuels or SAF. Hydrogen may be used but it will be used to produce SAF. The driving reason for my prediction that battery electric aircraft will be used for short-haul is that the cost prediction of seat mile cost of operation is only about 1/4 that of convention turbo-prop or jets aircraft. The aircraft will probably not look like the conventional aircraft as they will need to be more aerodynamically efficient. Blended wing body aircraft are about 40 to 50 % more efficient than the conventional tube and wing aircraft but do require computer controlled stability augmentation.


On the 16 November 2022, Artemis I was launched and is headed to Lunar orbit. The Space Launch System RS-25 engines are well proven, even though there were some delays due to liquid hydrogen loading. It should be noted that both Boeing and Airbus are among the manufacturers of the Space Launch System.
For a trip to the Moon or to Mars, liquid hydrogen is the ideal fuel.
However, spending tens of trillions of dollars on a global liquid hydrogen infrastructure for subsonic, commercial aviation to make a light improvement over SAF makes no sense.



Most of us have nothing remotely like your level of expertise, but a general interest.

However, for folk like me, here is a summary of the pros and cons of SAF and liquid hydrogen which seems pretty even handed to me:

It would seem that the possibility of using fuel cells with liquid hydrogen is a big incentive.

No one is paying tens of trillions for liquid hydrogen upfront, to see if it works, a lot of the development is happening in any case, although of course the possibility of using liquid hydrogen in aviation is a big incentive.

More efficient airframes such as bat winged designs which would be useful/essential for hydrogen are being developed for electrification anyway, as is extensive production and distribution of liquid hydrogen for road and rail freight and travel.

Having said all that, there is a lot of mileage in air transport decarbonisation using SAF, so that is perhaps the leading contender for long haul.

Short haul and regional may be a different matter, with even battery electric coming into play.

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