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Research project for the use of hydrogen in aviation starts in Hamburg

09 July 2021

A new development platform has been launched in Hamburg in order to test new hydrogen technology from as early as 2022. Funded by the Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Lufthansa Technik will work with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Center for Applied Aeronautical Research (ZAL) and Hamburg Airport over the next two years to design and test extensive maintenance and ground processes in handling hydrogen technology.

Examples of potential fields of application for liquid hydrogen in aviation
Examples of potential fields of application for liquid hydrogen in aviation

As part of the testing, an aircraft from the Airbus A320 family will be converted into a stationary laboratory at Lufthansa Technik's base in Hamburg.

Liquid hydrogen (LH2) is increasingly being used in the development departments of large aircraft manufacturers as a sustainably producible fuel for future generations of commercial aircraft. In order to investigate the effects of the use of LH2 on maintenance and ground processes at an early stage, Lufthansa Technik, DLR, ZAL and Hamburg Airport are now pooling their extensive practical and scientific expertise. The aim is to jointly develop a pioneering demonstrator, and to operate it from 2022.

The City of Hamburg is funding the research project to help mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation industry.

"Hamburg is not just one of the three largest aviation clusters in the world, last year the city also developed the clear vision of becoming a major hydrogen metropolis," explained Michael Westhagemann, Senator for Economics and Innovation of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. "I therefore see it as both a logical and gratifying step to combine these two core competences of Hamburg. The port, the energy sector, industry and the entire mobility sector are involved and are preparing for this groundbreaking technology. With this project, we are now also making an essential contribution to the transformation of aviation into a climate-neutral mobility solution of the future. The clear goal is to build up a hydrogen economy in Hamburg that will occupy a leading position internationally."

In the first phase of the project, the partners aim to identify the most urgent fields of development for closer scientific examination by the end of 2021 and, on this basis, to elaborate the concept for subsequent practical testing. The practical implementation of the concept will start at the beginning of 2022 and will involve the modification of a decommissioned Airbus A320 aircraft. It will be equipped with an LH2 infrastructure to be used as a fully functional field laboratory at Lufthansa Technik's base in Hamburg. In parallel, a virtual environment is being created at DLR that will be used to achieve digital and highly accurate mapping of the defined development fields. The new development platform is to provide inspiration for the design process of the next generation of aircraft by means of parameterised and highly accurate virtual models.

"There is no alternative to the transformation of our industry towards climate-neutral flying. With this project, we want to tackle this enormous technological challenge at an early stage – for the entire MRO industry as well as for us. In this way, we are actively securing the future, because we are building up know-how today for the maintenance and ground processes of the day after tomorrow," explained Dr. Johannes Bussmann, Chief Executive Officer of Lufthansa Technik AG.


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