Multi-MW Fuel Cell Propulsion System for Hydrogen-Powered Aircraft

As part of the European Union “Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking”, the project NEWBORN is aiming towards building a fully electrified regional aircraft, with it’s electrical architecture built around innovative fuel cell technology. The Institute of Power Electronics (LEE) is contributing by simulations regarding the electrical subsystem.

To fulfill the urgent need for a radical reduction or even elimination of the life-cycle emissions in the aviation sector, a new clean-sheet design of the propulsion and power drain of aircrafts is necessary.

Out of the possible ways forward – hydrogen burning jet engines, sustainable aviation fuels, battery powered aircraft, and fuel cells – only the last one offers a potential for CO2 and NOx-emission free flight combined with a realistic outlook to achieve useful mission range.

Fuel cells currently undergo significant development, mostly motivated by the automotive sector, therefore the technology is advancing rapidly. Today’s state-of-art can be expected to become obsolete in several years, impacting the overall propulsion system architecture. Examples include recent introduction of reliable membrane technologies (at TRL2+) that allow for high temperature operation with sufficient reliability, advancements in the stack’s humidity sensitivity, and improvements of current density.

As part of the European Union “Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking”, the project NEWBORN aims at developing the overall propulsion system architecture of a purely electric regional aircraft with a foresight of the stack technology improvements and recent research activities around the production of green hydrogen in mind.

The Chair for power electronics (LEE) is responsible for the development of simulations regarding the global electrical architecture for the aircraft in multi-layer modelling approach with functional and behavioral levels. This includes the power source, storage (battery), power converters, e-drive motors, energy management analysis and control.

The simulation results will be used for system stability analysis, transient and fault-condition studies and to highlight possible power quality issues of the designed system architecture.

The project NEWBORN is funded by the EU-Commission in the framework of the HORIZON-JU-CLEAN-AVIATION-2022-01-HPA-02 program under funding No. 101101967.

Run time: 2023-2024

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