The Future of Hydrogen Planes Comes with Advantages and Challenges, says MIT…


September 22, 2023 1 By TAMI HOOD

The future of hydrogen planes comes with advantages and challenges, says MIT

Among the hurdles to be overcome include H2 production, general safety, and the logistics of refueling.

The aviation industry has, to a not insignificant degree, been investing in hydrogen planes in than effort to decarbonize as the world battles with the impact and progression of climate change.


This includes efforts to develop the aircraft themselves as well as what will be needed on the ground.

After all, making sure that hydrogen planes can safely fly is only a first step. Everything from standards and regulations to ensuring that a supply of fuel will be readily available will also need to be established. This involves a considerable number of companies and researchers, some of which are focused on the air, while others are concentrating on the ground.

A team of researchers from MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation recently examined this complex effort, identifying some of the areas in which it appears highly promising, as well as some of the aspects that will be notably challenging.

“Hydrogen may be a good thing, but you got to look at it from the full system level, right?” asked aeronautics and astronautics MIT professor R. John Hansman from the International Center for Air Transportation, as quoted in a recent Spectrum IEEE report. “Because it won’t work unless you have all the pieces to make it work as an operating system. There’s a lot of technology that would have to be developed.”

Mainstream use of hydrogen planes would require substantial amounts of H2 as fuel.

According to a paper co-authored by Hansman and a number of students from MIT, O’Hare airport in Chicago, alone, would require 719 tons of liquid hydrogen every day in order to meet the demand of H2-powered aircraft.

Hydrogen planes research - MIT building

The team behind the paper presented it in Finland at the University of Vaasa for the IEEE International Conference on Future Energy Solutions.

Massive fuel demands

The researchers had investigated the requirements for supplying enough liquid H2 to meet the demand for 100 airports worldwide serving long-haul flights, assuming their aircraft used that clean fuel.

They determined that to support the long-haul flights from those airports, the energy from over 30 percent of global nuclear electricity production per day would be required to keep hydrogen planes supplied with fuel. For real climate benefits from the use of H2, renewable or nuclear energy would be required for the H2 production, said the paper.

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