Rolls-Royce is testing fuel pumps designed to handle liquid hydrogen at low temperatures and high pressures, essential requirements for future hydrogen propulsion systems in aircraft.
Rolls-Royce and hydrogen fuel pumps
The company is collaborating with easyJet on the development of hydrogen combustion engines intended for use on the airline’s narrow-body aircraft, with expectations of having them available for deployment in the mid-2030s.
One of the main engineering challenges in these engines relates to their fuel systems, since liquid hydrogen, cooled to temperatures below -250°C, must be pressurized before being pumped into the engine and burned. Rolls-Royce has identified three essential technological challenges to solve to enable the use of hydrogen in aviation: the combustion of the fuel, its supply and the integration of the fuel systems with the engines, ensuring that all components function correctly. safe.
It is important to mention that in September 2023, the company carried out tests on a complete annular combustion chamber belonging to a Pearl 700 engine at the German Research Agency DLR facilities in Cologne. During this process, engineers used a fuel mixture composed of 100% hydrogen, with the purpose of demonstrating the feasibility of burning hydrogen under conditions that simulate the maximum thrust necessary for an aircraft to take off.
The latest test programme, carried out at Rolls-Royce’s Solihull facility in the UK, marks the start of the fuel delivery component evaluation and will evaluate the performance of pump systems designed for cryogenic liquid hydrogen developed by the company. company. Until now, tests have focused on cooling the bomb and understanding its behavior under cryogenic conditions.
Simon Burr, group director of engineering, technology and safety at Rolls-Royce, said: “We continue to make good progress on our hydrogen journey working alongside easyJet. Hydrogen is an opportunity that can be part of the aviation energy transition and we are committed to fully understanding its potential”.
For her part, Jane Ashton, sustainability director at easyJet, said: “Hydrogen will be a key component in helping short-haul aviation decarbonise its operations and we therefore welcome continued progress in Rolls-Royce’s testing programme. We look forward to working with Rolls-Royce to develop these new technologies which have the potential to create a real step-change in the aviation industry.”.
Additionally, last year both companies achieved a historic milestone by employing an AE2100 engine powered by 100% green hydrogen in Boscombe Down, United Kingdom. As a continuation of this pioneering test program, a ground evaluation is planned using full gaseous hydrogen in a Pearl engine, followed by a ground test with a Pearl engine using liquid hydrogen.
Notably, the bomb research has been financially backed by the UK government, while the wider hydrogen testing program receives funding from easyJet.
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