National Laboratories and Boeing are collaborating on a
project looking at the feasibility of using a hydrogen-powered fuel
cell for providing backup power in aircraft.
Commercial and military aircraft use a variety of techniques
for providing backup electrical power to critical subsystems during
emergency scenarios. Depending on the aircraft, these may include
dedicated battery power, in-flight operation of the auxiliary power
unit, a ram air turbine, or other technologies.
The project is a new task under an umbrella cooperative
research and development agreement signed between the two organizations
Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
The project focuses on the use of a polymer electrolyte
membrane (PEM) fuel cell for backup power. Sandia is leading
investigations looking at electrical and environmental requirements,
storage issues, and efficiency.
“Fuel cell technology represents a straightforward
and innovative approach to gaining experience with alternative energy
sources for airplane electrical power,” says Joe Breit,
project manager and an associate technical fellow at the Boeing Systems
Concept Center. “A significant part of our focus at Boeing
Commercial Airplanes is looking at environmentally progressive
technologies that can further reduce dependencies on oil-driven power
sources. Our collaborative work with Sandia on this application is a
step forward in that regard.”
The project taps Sandia’s 60 years of experience in
hydrogen storage for weapons applications and more recent R&D
in materials science and hydrogen storage engineering through its
DOE-sponsored Metal Hydride Center of Excellence, said project manager
Lennie Klebanoff of Sandia’s Livermore, Calif., site.
Sandia PEM researcher Chris Cornelius will evaluate fuel cell
requirements, implementation and efficiency; Klebanoff will provide
analysis of hydrogen storage options and issues.