AeroDelft completes successful hydrogen fuel cell run

AeroDelft, a team of over 50 students based in Delft, the Netherlands, has completed its first month-long ground testing campaign for a gaseous hydrogen (GH2) powertrain designed to test coherent performance of the system.

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The test is aimed at gathering data for their manned aircraft, dubbed “Phoenix”. During the campaign, the GH2 fuel cell was successfully turned on three times, with loads being pulled and dissipated via an electro motor and propeller.

The Phoenix aircraft will use the fuel cell to generate electricity through an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, the only by-products of which are heat and water. In the future, this fuel cell will be tested at around 120kW and ultimately power an electric motor situated in the aircraft’s nose, providing the thrust necessary to propel it through the air.

The team is aiming for the Phoenix (a modified Sling 4 aircraft) to take flight using GH2 in 2025 and LH2 in 2026. Liquified cryogenic hydrogen (LH2) allows for denser energy storage compared to pressurised gaseous hydrogen (GH2). This provides the aircraft with increased range capabilities and the possibility of carrying additional payload.

The intermediate step of flying on GH2 will provide useful information towards achieving the ultimate goal of LH2 flight. The team says a number of technical and regulatory challenges are set to be tackled before this can happen. This recent successful fuel cell run on GH2 adds to the long list of milestones achieved by AeroDelft since the delivery of the airframe in July of 2021.