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Towards Climate-neutral Aviation: Assessment of Maintenance Requirements for Airborne Hydrogen Storage and Distribution Systems


Airlines are faced with the challenge of reducing their environmental footprint in an effort to push for climate-neutral initiatives that comply with international regulations. In the past, the aviation industry has followed the approach of incremental improvement of fuel efficiency while simultaneously experiencing significant growth in annual air traffic. With the increase in air traffic negating any reduction in Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, more disruptive technologies such as hydrogen-based onboard power generation are required to reduce the environmental impact of airline operations. However, despite initial euphoria and first conceptual studies for hydrogen-powered aircraft several decades ago, there still has been no mass adoption to this day. Besides the challenges of a suitable ground infrastructure, this can partly be attributed to uncertainties with the associated maintenance requirements and the expected operating costs to demonstrate the economic viability of this technology. With this study, we address this knowledge gap by estimating changes towards scheduled maintenance activities for an airborne hydrogen storage and distribution system. In particular, we develop a detailed system design for a hydrogen-powered, fuel-cell-based auxiliary power generation and perform a comparative analysis with an Airbus A320 legacy system. That analysis allows us to (a) identify changes for the expected maintenance effort to enhance subsequent techno-economic assessments, (b) identify implications of specific design assumptions with corresponding maintenance activities while ensuring regulatory compliance and (c) describe the impact on the resulting task execution. The thoroughly examined interactions between system design and subsequent maintenance requirements of this study can support practitioners in the development of prospective hydrogen-powered aircraft. In particular, it allows the inclusion of maintenance implications in early design stages of corresponding system architectures. Furthermore, since the presented methodology is transferable to different design solutions, it provides a blueprint for alternative operating concepts such as the complete substitution of kerosene by hydrogen to power the main engines.

Funding source: This research was funded by the Hamburgische Investitionsund Forderbank through the Hydrogen Aviation Lab project € (No. 51163826) in conjunction with Lufthansa Technik AG, ZAL GmbH and Hamburg Airport.
Related subjects: Applications & Pathways
Countries: Germany

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