Alongside easyJet, the two companies are planning to lead the way in the development of hydrogen combustion engine technology capable of powering a range of aircraft.
With the university’s Natioanl Centre for Combustion and Aerothermal Technology (NCCAT) and the German Aerospace Centre Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt (DLR), the organisations ran tests on a full annular combustor of a Pearl 700 engine running on 100% hydrogen, proving that fuel can be combusted at conditions representing maximum take-off thrust.
The technologies tested at Loughborough and DLR, Cologne, will be incorporated into the learning from Boscombe Down tests – undertook last year by Rolls-Royce and easyJet – as the two companies prepare for the next testing phase, a full gas hydrogen ground test on a Pearl engine.
Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology at Rolls-Royce, claimed it is an incredible achievement for such a short space of time. She added, “Controlling the combustion process is one of the key technology challenges that industry faces in making hydrogen a real aviation fuel of the future.”
The key to the latest success of the hydrogen research project was the design of advanced fuel spray nozzles to control the combustion process. This saw the nozzles control the flame position using a new system that progressively mixes air with the hydrogen to manage the fuels reactivity.
The individual nozzles were initially tested at intermediate pressure at Loughborough’s NCCAT facilities and at DLR Cologne, before the final full-pressure combustor tests.
Professor Dan Parsons, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at Loughborough University, said, “In conjunction with its partners, Loughborough’s National Centre for Combustion and Aerothermal Technology is delighted to have supported the landmark testing and development of advanced aerospace fuel spray nozzles utilising hydrogen fuel. This is a major advance towards Net Zero aviation.”
With a full gas hydrogen ground test now set to take place, a simulation involving liquid hydrogen will follow as both Rolls-Royce and easyJet have ambitions to then take the technology to flight.
The two companies initially collaborated last year (2022), announcing the partnership, H2ZERO, which aims to develop hydrogen engine technology to power aircraft, including the narrow-body market.
Rolls-Royce has received support for hydrogen research through the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute HyEST programme, Germany’s LUFO 6 WOTAN programme, and the EU’s Clean Aviation CAVENDISH programme.
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