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PERSPECTIVE | Energy & Environmental Science

Improving the environmental impact of civil aircraft by fuel cell technology:

concepts and technological progress†
Gwena€elle Renouard-Vallet,*a Martin Saballus,a Gerrit Schmithals,a Johannes Schirmer,b Josef Kallo*b
and K. Andreas Friedrichb
Received 8th December 2009, Accepted 12th May 2010
DOI: 10.1039/b925930a

Nowadays, new technologies and breakthroughs in the fields of energy efficiency, alternative fuels and
added-value electronics are leading to improved, more environmentally sustainable and green thinking
applications. Due to the forecasted rapid increase of volume of air traffic, future aircraft generations have
to face enhanced requirements concerning productivity, environmental compatibility and higher
operational availability, thus effecting technical, operational and economical aspects of in-flight and
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on-ground power generation systems, even if air transport is responsible for only about 2% of all
anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The trend in new aircraft development is toward ‘‘more electric’’
architectures which is characterized by a higher proportion of electrical systems substituting hydraulically
or pneumatically driven components, and, as a result, increasing the amount of electrical power. Fuel cell
systems in this context represent a promising solution regarding the enhancement of the energy efficiency
for both cruise and ground operations. For several years the Institute of Technical Thermodynamics of
the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum f€ ur Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR) in Stuttgart and
Hamburg has developed fuel cell systems for aircraft applications. The activities of DLR focus on:
identification of fuel cell applications in aircraft in which the properties of fuel cell systems, namely high
electric efficiency, low emissions and silent operation, are capitalized for the aircraft application; design
and modeling of possible and advantageous system designs; theoretical and experimental investigations
regarding specific aircraft relevant operating conditions; qualification of airworthy fuel cell systems; set
up and full scale testing of fuel cell systems for application in research aircraft.
In cooperation with Airbus, several fuel cell applications within the aircraft for both ground and cruise
operation have been identified. As a consequence, fuel cell systems capable of supporting or even
replacing existing systems have been derived. In this context, the provision of inert gas for the jet fuel
(kerosene) tank and electrical cabin power supply, including water regeneration, represent the most
promising application fields.
This paper will present the state of development and the evolution discussing the following points:
modeling of different system architectures and evaluation of promising fuel cell systems; experimental
evaluation of fuel cell systems under relevant conditions (low pressure, vibrations, reformate operation,
etc.); fuel cell test in DLR’s research aircraft ATRA (A320) including the test of an emergency system
based on hydrogen and oxygen with 20 kW of electrical power. The fuel cell system was integrated into
an A320 aircraft and tested up to a flight altitude of 25 000 feet under several acceleration and
inclination conditions; fuel cell tests in Antares-H2—DLR’s new flying test bed.

Deutsches Zentrum f€ur Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Institut f€ ur Germany. E-mail:;; Tel:
Technische Thermodynamik, Hein-Saß-Weg 38, 21129 Hamburg, +0049 711 6862-672
Germany. E-mail:; Fax: +0049 40 743- † This article results from the Hyceltec 2009 meeting.
74727; Tel: +0049 40 743-89390
Deutsches Zentrum f€ur Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Institut f€ ur
Technische Thermodynamik, Pfaffenwaldring 38-40, 70569 Stuttgart,

Broader context
‘‘Green flying’’—fuel cell systems as part of the electrical supply in civil aircraft are making this expression a reality. Indeed, fuel cell
systems have high electrical efficiency and only produce water and oxygen depleted air as gas emissions. What is also very innovative
is that these ‘‘waste products’’ can be used to generated water on board and be used as inert gas in the jet fuel tank as a fire retardation
and suppression measure or even complete explosion prevention. For several years the Institute of Technical Thermodynamics of the
German Aerospace Center, in cooperation with Airbus, has developed fuel cell systems which fulfil these functionalities for both
aircraft ground and cruise operation. This paper presents all the modelling and experimental activities which have been performed in
the last few years to make a dream come true—flying as green and silent as a sparrow (Antares-H2) or a condor/swan (ATRA A320).

1458 | Energy Environ. Sci., 2010, 3, 1458–1468 This journal is ª The Royal Society of Chemistry 2010
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Indeed, the ACARE (Advisory Council for Aeronautics

Research) has issued their Vision 2020 goals for aeronautic
According to the IPCC (2000) reports1 and the newest environ- research in which a reduction of CO2 emissions by 50%, and of
mental studies,2 air transport is responsible for about 2% of the NOx emissions by 80% is envisioned.3
worldwide CO2 emissions and will probably rise up to 3.5% due The restriction of the noise and of the emissions (CO, NOx and
to the drastic increase of air traffic over the last decades and the HC) in airports has already led to some stringent limitations on
expected further growth (see Fig. 1). Because of the rising public travel schedules and flight intensity in industrialized countries.
awareness about the environmental impact of air traffic, inter- Moreover, airlines have to expect aircraft movement quotas,
national institutions like the European Community have higher taxes and airport tariffs dependent on the ground emis-
increased the pressure on aircraft manufacturers to improve the sions of their fleet. Therefore future aircraft generations have to
efficiency of their aircrafts and lower their environmental impact. meet not only higher environmental standards but also higher

Dr Gwenaelle Renouard-Vallet Dr Gerrit Schmithals is, since

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is, since June 2004, a researcher 2008, a researcher and project

at the German Aerospace leader at the Institute of Tech-
Center, Institute of Technical nical Thermodynamics of the
Thermodynamics, Department German Aerospace Center. He
of Electrochemical Energy finished his diploma in chemical
Conversion/Group Electro- engineering at the Technische
chemical Systems in Hamburg, Universit€at Berlin studying
Germany. After a diploma in analysis techniques for fuel cell
material engineering in Limoges membrane manufacturing
(France), she fulfilled an inter- control. At the Helmholtz-Zen-
national PhD in Canada and trum Berlin f€ur Materialien und
France at three research insti- Energie he obtained a PhD
Gwena€elle Renouard-Vallet tutes (Sherbrooke University, Gerrit Schmithals working on the characterisation
Limoges University and of catalysts for low temperature
‘‘Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission’’-CEA) on fuel cells using electrochemical and X-ray absorption techniques.
solid oxide fuel cell electrolyte development via plasma technology. Research activities in recent and current projects concentrate on
In the last few years, her activities have been oriented towards the integration aspects of fuel cell systems in aircraft applications
development of fuel cell systems for aircraft application. Her including thermal management, dynamic behaviour and environ-
research interests are fuel cell system behaviour under aircraft mental conditions.
environment, research on possible functionalities and integration

Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Martin Sabal- Dr.-Ing. Johannes Schirmer

lus worked since June 2004 as started his PhD in 1998 at the
a graduated engineer at the Institute for Technical Chem-
German Aerospace Center, istry I in Erlangen with a thesis
Institute of Technical Thermo- in the field of Catalytic Plastic
dynamics, Department of Elec- Recycling. In 2002 he started
trochemical Energy Conversion/ a Postdoctoral research fellow
Group Electrochemical Systems with Basic Research in the field
in Hamburg, Germany. His of Direct Methanol Fuel Cells,
major sphere of action has been at the DLR Institute for Tech-
focused on the development of nical Thermodynamics in Stutt-
fuel cell system design for gart. Since 2005 he is a project
aircraft application. His applied manager and research associate
Martin Saballus research interests are optimiza- Johannes Schirmer at DLR in the field of Fuel cell
tion of system applications from system development in low
fuel storage to energy supply under different environmental power range and fuel cells for aircraft applications. He is/was
conditions. Project Manager for several projects like PORTAPOWER,
Power Pack, ErgoPack; MobilE-Pack; ELBASYS as also Project
Coordinator of BZ-BattExt. He contributed as an author to
multiple publications and patents on the field of fuel cell

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remain to successfully apply the technology to commercial flying

Two fuel cell technologies are the center of the research
activities on different levels: the SOFCs (solid oxide fuel cells)
and the PEFCs (proton exchange membrane fuel cells).
The high temperature SOFCs and the associated fuel
processing are theoretically and conceptually well-suited because
of their similarity in operating temperature and the possible
hybrid configurations with gas turbine to increase efficiency.
Fig. 1 Scenario of the evolution of CO2 emissions in aviation, adapted
Several studies which were initiated by Boeing to investigate
from ref. 2. hybrid configurations of SOFC and micro gas turbines in aircraft
have been published indicating—from a conceptual viewpoint—
a large benefit for high-temperature systems.4–6 However, both
economical and productivity requirements. These trends also technologies are not yet mature enough for transportation
have implications for technology and economics of the on-board applications, as extremely large improvements in power density
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power generation. For several years a clear tendency to replace of SOFCs and compact and reliable fuel processors are needed
hydraulic and pneumatic aircraft systems by electrical systems for achieving the aircraft requirements.
can be observed (often denominated ‘‘more electric aircraft’’). The PEFCs are not far from the industrialization stage in the
Traditionally the electrical power on board is provided with automotive industry and they are therefore a good candidate for
high efficiency by the aircraft’s main propulsion engines, with the near future integration in aeronautic applications. Never-
low efficiency by a gas turbine auxiliary power unit (APU) or theless, due to typical aircraft requirements, a lot of challenges
with better efficiency by a ground power unit (GPU). In flight, still have to be met: improving the specific power of the stack,
the efficiency of electric power generated by the main engines and reducing the weight of the remaining components, and investi-
their generators can reach 40%, however, on the ground with the gating flight-operation conditions. Regarding this concern, on
engines shut off, the average fuel efficiency of the turbine- the one hand, Boeing has recently demonstrated a small manned
powered APU is typically less than 20% and when idling even in two-seater prototype composite motor glider airplane powered
the area of 10%. In addition, the undesirable noise and gaseous by proton exchange membrane (PEFC) fuel cell stacks and
emissions of the APU have a negative effect and its use is Li-ion batteries in a hybrid configuration.7 The fuel for the PEFC
forbidden in an increasing number of airports. is compressed hydrogen gas as fuel and pressurized air as
Due to their high electrical efficiency and environmentally oxidant. The fuel cell system was used for in-flight cruising. For
friendly behavior, fuel cell systems are attractive solutions to take-off, both the batteries and fuel cell are needed. On the other
improve the environmental impact of aircraft systems. Therefore hand, Airbus is developing PEFC systems for specific aircraft
publications and research activities in this area have grown APU applications.8
considerably the last few years, driven by the two large aircraft The goal of Airbus is to incorporate several functions and
manufacturers Boeing and Airbus. Challenges nevertheless products of the fuel cell system into the aircraft architecture in

Dr Josef Kallo started his PhD Dr. K. Andreas Friedrich is

in 1999 at the ‘‘Global Alterna- a Professor of Mechanical
tive Propulsion Center’’ of Engineering at the University of
General Motors in Mainz Kastel Stuttgart and the Head of the
with a fuel cell related thesis. Fuel Cell Research group at the
From 2002 to 2005 he contrib- German Aerospace Center in
uted to the development of the Stuttgart. His research areas
General Motors fuel cell driven include PEFCs as well as
Zafira H3. In January 2006 Dr SOFCs. Starting with early
Kallo re-established the fuel cell fundamental work on electro-
system group at the German catalysts the research becomes
Aerospace Center with the main increasingly application oriented
topics fuel cell systems for with recent specialization on
Josef Kallo aircraft applications including K: Andreas Friedrich aircraft fuel cell systems. The
the development of an APU primary goals comprise
replacement unit for large aircrafts and the development of the enhanced power density, long lifetime, reduction of materials and
Antares DLR H2 fuel cell powered 20m wingspan aircraft. The manufacturing costs, identification and prevention of degradation
hybrid power plant based on pressurized high temperature fuel cells mechanisms in stacks, advanced and optimised integration of fuel
and gas turbines is a second major topic. Dr Kallo holds the silver f- cells into energy supply systems. Dr. Friedrich has authored and co-
cell Award and contributed as an author to multiple publications authored more than 80 papers in the described research fields.
and patents in the field of fuel cell applications.

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order to demonstrate not only ecological but also economical avionic systems, the environmental control system (air condi-
benefits which would justify the additional costs of fuel cell tioning) and the de-icing devices. The APU itself is started from
technology. Starting from the application with the easiest tech- batteries or—if the main engines are operating—by pneumatic
nical requirements the strategy consists of integrating evermore energy. Normally the APU is shut down after the start of the
intricate functions into the system. It is important that the next main engines. The electrical ground supply can be supplied
generation development should always include the functions of advantageously by a hydrogen based fuel cell system since it has
the preceding development generation. The first step in this a better electrical efficiency and does not produce greenhouse gas
development roadmap has been demonstrated by several emissions and is relatively quiet.
successful flight tests of a 20 kW emergency power fuel cell Another system with large potential for improvement is the
system as a result of a collaboration between DLR, Airbus and required emergency power system—the Ram Air Turbine
Michelin. A fuel cell system operated with H2/O2 from Michelin (RAT)—which generates electricity from the air stream (essen-
operated the control surfaces of the aircraft during flight. The tially the RAT is a propeller). In the case of failure of all engines
fuel cell system showed a very robust behavior even at significant (which is a very rare event) the hydraulic system and the electric
accelerations.9 systems of the aircraft are lost. In this case the aircraft is not
This contribution describes the state and progress of the controllable anymore as the control surfaces, which are normally
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aircraft related development of DLR in cooperation with Airbus hydraulically or electrically controlled, can not be steered. In
and the next planned steps for fuel cell aircraft demonstration. such a case the RAT is automatically or manually swung out at
The following tasks have been fundamental for the definition of the underside of the aircraft body or the wings and provides the
a multifunctional fuel cell application in aircrafts: necessary electrical power for the controls through a hydraulic
 Based on system modeling, the various applications of fuel pump or an electric generator depending on the aircraft type. In
cell systems have been evaluated and fuel cell designs have been the meantime, electrical power is also provided for the fly-by-
derived. wire systems and the cabin emergency light. The efficiency of the
 The fields of application for the fuel cells in civil aircrafts RAT generator depends on the altitude and the aircraft speed.
have been identified and the potential advantages in this appli- The pilot has about 30 min to find the next airport in a gliding
cation have been elaborated. flight if the main engines can not be restarted. After use the RAT
 Various fuel cell systems and functional sub-systems have can not be retracted anymore even if the main engines are again
been investigated in the laboratory environment taking into operational. This emergency function can also be realized
account aviation relevant operating conditions (like ambient and advantageously by a fuel cell system since the RAT presently
operating pressure). Important operation conditions included causes high maintenance costs and leads to worse aerodynamic
low pressure operation, climatic changes and inclination and properties of the aircraft when active.
orientation measurements. The quality of the product water and During cruise the electrical energy is provided by the genera-
the cathode exhaust were analyzed. tors of the main engines. The efficiency of this energy supply is
 Modified and adapted fuel cell systems were qualified for quite high, around 30–40%, however, this efficiency can be
aircraft application. exceeded by fuel cell systems which can reach 50% of electrical
 The first systems were tested in the research aircraft A320 efficiency.
ATRA. The primary goal of fuel cell systems in aircrafts is to avoid
 New testing bed and platforms like the motor glider Antares inefficient operation phases of aircrafts. In this respect, the
DLR-H2 were conceived and successfully tested. elimination of the APU and the RAT is envisioned. The first
application of fuel cell systems in a commercial aircraft has so far
been the demonstration of emergency power. The first fuel cell
The multifunctional concept for fuel cell systems in
aviation: a step by step approach
Power generation
One of the main deficits of the current power supply systems in
aircraft is that they are often operating in an inefficient way
(sometimes high energy consuming). As an example, the auxil-
iary power unit (APU) has a low efficiency of only 20% and even
lower10 at part load conditions; moreover, according to a study
by Zuerich airport the APU is responsible for 18% of nitric oxide
emissions and also for significant carbon monoxide emissions. In
addition, the noise emissions of the APU are of special concern
as they are responsible for health problems, mainly of ground
Fig. 2 Multifunctional fuel cell system; the possible functions are power
personnel. The APU which is located in the tailcone of passenger
supply, emission free ground operation, electrical main engine start,
aircrafts is a gas turbine which delivers electrical energy, electrical environmental control system (EECS), water generation
compressed air and hydraulic pressure for a self-sufficient oper- (portable water and water for toilets), heat generation (ice prevention,
ation of aircraft systems on the ground without main engines. hot water generation), explosion and fire prevention and suppression
The most important function of the APU is the main engine start. (inerting of tanks, cargo and e-bay compartment), cockpit and/or cabin
Other systems that can be operated by the APU include the air humidification.

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emergency system with hydrogen/oxygen operation has been The use of the fuel cell exhaust, which is oxygen depleted air, is
demonstrated in-flight with the DLR research aircraft A320.9 very innovative. Tests of various fuel cell systems have shown
However, the APU replacement or RAT replacement alone only 10% of oxygen content in the exhaust (see Fig. 4) by
would not justify the relatively high development effort for fuel reducing air stoichiometry.
cell systems since the gravimetric power density of the gas turbine These low oxygen contents in the tank are effective as fire
is significantly superior to even the most advanced fuel cell retardation and suppression measures or even complete explo-
system. Therefore, a multifunctional approach of fuel cell sys- sion prevention. New rules of American and European aero-
tems is foreseen for civil aircraft applications. Indeed, fuel cell nautical authorities dictate inerting systems for the jet fuel tank
systems can supply power but can also deliver further functions in new aircraft models and as retrofit for in-service ones (an
and products like water and low-oxygen containing exhaust air inflammability of jet fuel is not possible for oxygen contents
for inerting of the jet fuel tank. Another function may be the use below 12% by volume). If the fuel cell can satisfy this function,
of the heat of the fuel cells for de-icing. the presently used inerting systems based on nitrogen tanks can
Having a multifunctional architecture of the fuel cell system be eliminated. Fig. 2 displays schematically the functions that
(see Fig. 2) within the aircraft can compensate for the mass a multifunctional fuel cell system may be able to fulfil.
penalty of fuel cells compared to the gas turbine on the aircraft System evaluation taking into account the inerting function
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level. and the water generation show that the weight penalty of fuel cell
systems compared to gas turbines can be compensated leading to
Water generation and inert gas generation weight benefits of over a ton which increase with mission dura-
tion. For each airplane type a maximum benefit is found for
Fuel cell system can deliver ca. 0.5–0.6 L of water per kW h specific powers (e.g. ca. 300 kW for A380). In addition, due to
electrical power (see Fig. 3); which means that for 100 kW fuel saving of jet fuel, snowball effects with further weight benefits
cell power (appropriate for a large aircraft) about 50 L of water can be considered. However, the airlines can choose to consider
are generated per hour. This can be used for toilets and air longer missions instead of less fuel load.
conditioning, thereby reducing the amount of water to be loaded
on-board the aircraft. Therefore water generation by the fuel cell Development strategy
will help reduce the water mass in the tank of the aircraft. The
conditioning and the water quality were and are still the subject The development strategy aims to demonstrate first the emer-
of research and development for improvement and optimization gency system which is also the easiest function for a fuel cell
(National German Projects APAWAGS, ELBASYS and system. In the next step a multifunctional system also including
BRINKS). Another advantageous aspect in this regard is the the emergency function should be demonstrated. The time
reduced maintenance for fuel cell product water compared to tap dependent development steps are schematically shown in Fig. 5.
water. It is important in this respect that each new generation should
include the function of the preceding generation. In this regard
the fuel cell system becomes more complex with each generation
since more functions are integrated. However, the benefits for the
aircraft also improve. The abbreviations used in Fig. 5 are
FCEPS (Fuel Cell Emergency Power System), FCWIP (Fuel Cell
System for Water, Inert-Gas and Power), and MFFCS (Multi-
Functional Fuel Cell System).

Evaluation of system architectures

Low temperature fuel cell systems, in particular PEFC-based
architectures, are currently the only fuel cell type that satisfies the
Fig. 3 Water production rate for a commercial PEFC from ª Hydro- maturity and power density requirements for aircrafts. They can
genics type HyPM XR12 for different operating conditions and different vary significantly in design and functionality. The differences in
temperatures of condensation.

Fig. 4 Variation of oxygen content in a commercial PEFC from ª

Hydrogenics type HyPM XR12 fuel cell exhaust depending on operating Fig. 5 Development strategy of Airbus with different fuel cell system
parameters. development generations.

1462 | Energy Environ. Sci., 2010, 3, 1458–1468 This journal is ª The Royal Society of Chemistry 2010
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proposed. In this context, an off-stream turbine for cruise

conditions appears favorable with respect to system efficiency.
Reformer-based system architectures including an expander were
therefore additionally investigated.
For an objective assessment of the 12 established fuel cell
systems, criteria for a quantitative design were derived with
regard to the application in an aircraft environment. In Table 1
the chosen criteria are displayed. In addition a consistent system
operation point was selected for the evaluation of the single
architectures, also listed in Table 1. The distinction between
cruise and ground scenarios results in this context from strongly
Fig. 6 Supply combinations for system architecture study.10,11 different surrounding and operation conditions. For ground
operation it is additionally assumed that ambient and cabin air
comprise identical properties. Finally, the assessment neglects
the individual set-ups arise from the specific application purposes
the energy necessary to provide compressed hydrogen and
as well as from optimization efforts intended to improve the
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oxygen from respective tanks.

system performance specifically for various aircraft functions.
The evaluation of the systems is first based on stationary
Consequently not all systems would be suited for aircraft appli-
modeling of the relevant properties. In Fig. 7 typical results for
cation to the same extent. Based on this background a design
system mass and system efficiencies are given. The system mass
study was carried out to find auspicious architectures and reduce
advantage resulting from the greater gravimetric energy density
the number of eligible system setups.10,11
of kerosene in comparison to pure hydrogen leads to an
The main components of the fuel cell system are the gas and air
improved suitability of reformer based systems for long range
supply, the fuel cell stack, the cooling system and the electrical
applications. Since the aircraft efficiency (distance traveled vs.
power management (DC/DC, DC/AC converter). The humidi-
kerosene usage) has not been considered with respect to the
fication system for the fuel cell membrane is integrated into the
overall weight the values displayed for reformer-based system are
gas and air supply system as the media are humidified. To eval-
expected to be even higher. However, since the mass is just one
uate the possible architecture, it was chosen to take into account
evaluation criteria for the complex requirements, a superior
the potential supply scenarios of the working gases. Fig. 6
assessment of reformer-based systems is not found. To illustrate
displays the described approach by showing the considered fuel
the opposing characters of different evaluation criteria, system
supply routes, resulting in 12 basic system setups. The adjacent
mass and efficiency as a result of the steady state evaluation
detailed arrangement of the individual architectures was finalized
campaign are shown in Fig. 7(b) for cruise conditions.
assuming the least number of additional balance-of-plant
components necessary to enable stable operation. Due to safety
considerations, the deployment of an afterburner in combination
with the application of a jet fuel reformer was additionally

Table 1 Operation conditions and criteria for quantitative design for

system assessment

Operation Conditions

Cruise Ground
H2 stoichiometry 1.1 (1.3) 1.1 (1.3)a
O2 stoichiometry 2 (1.3)a 2 (1.3)b
Fuel cell current density [A cm2] 0.75 0.75
Fuel cell stack inlet temperature [K] 353 353
Fuel cell stack inlet pressure [bar] 1 1.2
Electric power [kW] 50 50
Flight route [miles] 810/1900/>1900 —
Operating time [min] 96/228/720 60

Criteria for Quantitative Design

Reliability/failure probability
System mass
System efficiency
Dynamic response
System/controller complexity
Availability/cost Fig. 7 (a) Evaluation of system mass for varying hydrogen supply
Value for reformer-based architecture. b
Value for oxygen pressure concepts and the usage of cabin air; (b) relative system efficiencies for
tanks. considered architectures at cruise conditions—for air supplied reformer-
based systems an off-stream turbine is included.11,12

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Table 2 Application oriented evaluation of PEFC aircraft fuel cell

systems (criteria with double weight in the assessment are given in

System Setup

Application oriented evaluation

Engine start up (system mass, dynamics)
Front wheel drive (system mass, system efficiency)
Ram air turbine (simplicity, safety, system mass, dynamics)
Cabin electrical power (dynamics, system mass and efficiency)
Water generation and tank inerting (applicability, system mass)
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Fig. 8 Weights of the hydrogen storage system.

In addition to a cumulative evaluation, a weighted assessment

of the considered 12 architectures was carried out with regard to
different aircraft applications. In Table 2, a selection of specific
aircraft applications, which can be realized with fuel cell systems
is displayed (relevant criteria are in brackets).
The application oriented results11 support the positive evalu-
ation of hydrogen pressure tank based system architectures. A
good performance can also be expected for the usage of H2
cryogenic tanks.
This trend is confirmed by another study performed in DLR
Fig. 9 (a) DLR research aircraft A320 (D-ATRA) at the Berlin Inter-
internal project Cosicab+12 evaluating the different hydrogen
national Air Show (ILA) 2008. (b) Michelin fuel cell system in the cargo
storage types for aircraft application based on A320 basic area of the research aircraft. (c) Typical data of a flight test in July 2007.
mission and turn-over. In Fig. 8 the weights of the different Power of the fuel cell at the start of the emergency system during a curve
storages are evaluated for a typical day of operation of an A320. in flight.

The multifunctional fuel cell system: a path towards

The second fuel cell system being set-up at DLR will demon-
aircraft integration strate multiple functions on-board. Besides emergency power,
In a national project ELBASYS, the DLR was responsible for the system should deliver inert gas for the jet fuel tank and water.
the integration of a multifunctional fuel cell system into aircraft This task therefore consists of developing a H2/air fuel cell
architectures. Three main working tasks are defined in this system. The fuel cell system is based on commercial systems‡
project. which are modified and adapted to fulfil the rules and regulation
The first task consists of the integration of an already qualified of aircrafts. The task consists of developing new designs, modi-
H2/O2 fuel cell system for emergency power into the research fying components and developing an aviation-qualified control
aircraft A320 (D-ATRA). The fuel cell system was delivered by system. For that purpose a flexible aircraft qualified platform is
Airbus (manufacturer Michelin) to DLR. This system was inte- being developed in which different components can be changed
grated into the cargo area of the A320 at the Airbus location in rapidly without the need to start all qualification routines again.
Hamburg/Germany and tested in several flights with standard- With this airworthy test platform the development of aircraft fuel
ized missions. The data acquisition of the fuel cell system
performance was measured under realistic vibration loads, heat
rejection and safety aspects. The flight specific data measured
‡ The fuel cell systems used for the demonstration of multiple functions
includes temperature, pressure, vibrations, orientation angles,
on-board are low temperature PEFC with self-humidifying membrane.
etc. The fuel cell system demonstrated a robust behavior in all More details on these self-humidifying processes can be found in the
tests (see Fig. 9). literature.15

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Fig. 10 (a) Design of the airworthy (aircraft qualified) testing platform Fig. 11 (a) Photo of a test set-up for analyzing low-pressure behavior of
for fuel cell systems. (b) Components for the electrical nose wheel drive PEFC systems. (b) Example of the pressure dependence of a 300 W PEFC
for emission-free ground operation. system in the pressure range from 950 to 200 mbar.

cells can be drastically accelerated. The schematic of this plat-

form is presented in Fig. 10. relevant performance data of fuel cell systems are known. The
The third largest task consists in demonstrating an emission- testing work has provided criteria and results on the following
free ground operation. In particular, an electrical drive for the aspects:
nose wheel is being developed to show a fuel cell powered ground  Special requirements of fuel cell systems in aircrafts
taxiing of the A320. The ground taxiing is presently performed  Identification of suitable system designs
by using the thrust of the main engines at low load thereby  Fuel supply possibilities
producing a lot of noise and emissions at airports. The work  Efficient utilization of PEFC in aircrafts
consists again in qualifying all components for aircraft applica-  Increase and optimization of efficiency, reduction of noise
tion. A very interesting aspect is the coupling of four 12.5 kW and emissions
systems in a completely modular way to realize a redundant  Possibilities for efficient water management and fuel cell
system design. cooling.
A further priority topic was the technical screening of
different commercial systems‡ in different configurations. DLR
Aircraft relevant investigations has focused on the adaptation and modification of different
systems for aircraft qualification. In the test of different orien-
Tests in laboratory environment
tations (inclinations) of the systems, adverse angles were iden-
In the framework of internal projects DLR has tested cells and tified. An example is given in Fig. 12 where the system shows
systems under aircraft relevant conditions in the laboratory a decrease of cell voltage at an angle of 30 under load (adverse
environment. A specific test is the low pressure operation test operating condition) mainly at reduced air stoichiometries
down to 200 mbar which corresponds to a flight height of ca. which are of interest for the inerting function. This performance
12 000 m (ca. 39 000 ft) (Fig. 11). Even if the final fuel cell system instability is due to the water management of the system asso-
will probably be operated with cabin air, such characterizations ciated with water accumulation at the cathode. With a slight
are of paramount importance for system evaluations. The testing change in the system configuration, however, this problem can
results which also include different orientations, vibrational load be effectively avoided.
behavior, electromagnetic compatibility and water analysis, Another test bed has been developed to experiment with the
allow designing a layout of the system regarding its performance different possibilities of conditioning the fuel cell cathode
during cruise conditions. Furthermore, the detailed system exhaust gas in order to optimize the produced water and
design leads to estimations of mass and volume of components condition the inert gas before its distribution in the kerosene
and subsystems as well as a detailed specification for all tank. In this test bed (Fig. 13(a)), it is possible to measure the
components. Operation strategies as well as the evaluation of cathode exhaust gas characteristics as mass flow, relative
detailed system architectures are only possible if the aircraft humidity, oxygen concentration (Fig. 13(b)), pressure and

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Fig. 12 (a) Inclination test station. (b) Testing results of a 12.5 kW

system under different orientations. At low air stoichiometries of 1.6 the
voltage decreases at 30 angles.

Fig. 14 (a) Testing bed DLR-H2 for fuel cell propulsion with hydrogen.
(b) Specifications of the Antares motor glider from Lange Aviation. (c)
View of the hydrogen tank in the pod. (d) View of the altitude record.

Flight testing and development of new testing beds

Fig. 13 (a) Test bed measurement station. (b) Typical test results of O2
concentration measurement. An important milestone in the development efforts has been the
first test of a fuel cell in a civil aircraft environment through
a collaboration of Airbus, DLR and Michelin to power the air-
temperature at different points of the system in order to assess craft’s back-up hydraulic and electric power systems. The test
the different subsystem behaviors. A vacuum pump and a small conducted in DLR’s D-ATRA (‘‘Advanced Testing and Research
tank allow simulation of a pressure change in the system repre- Aircraft’’) in 2007 and 2008 is part of Airbus’ overall plans for an
sentative of the one expected in flight. eco-efficient aviation industry (see description above). During the

1466 | Energy Environ. Sci., 2010, 3, 1458–1468 This journal is ª The Royal Society of Chemistry 2010
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test, the hydrogen and oxygen based fuel cell system generated up obtained, until now, in the laboratory environment were thus
to 20 kW of electrical power. The fuel cell system powered the confirmed in real flight.
aircraft’s electrical motor pump and the back-up hydraulic circuit
and also operated the aircraft’s ailerons. The system’s robustness Outlook and summary
was confirmed at high gravity loads (‘‘g’’ loads) during turns and
zero gravity aircraft maneuvers. During the flight test, the fuel A strategic cooperation between Airbus and DLR in the context
cells produced around 10 L of pure water. of ecologically friendly aircraft systems has resulted in the first
Fig. 9 shows the DLR-ATRA at the Berlin International Air results for the development of fuel cell systems for future aircraft.
Show (ILA) 2008 (a), the tested Michelin fuel cell system in the This goal is supplemented by further development of complex
cargo area of the aircraft (b) and the curves of the behaviour of electrical architectures, which will lead to an overall improve-
the fuel cell system during the flight test (c). ment of energy efficiency, as well as by the development of
A new testing bed has been developed by DLR in cooperation a control system for reliable multifunctional operation. In future
with Lange Aviation (Fig. 14). The Antares DLR-H2 is a high- developments, the conventional air and hydraulic systems will be
tech motor glider aircraft based on the Antares 20E which has mostly replaced by electrical components. New avionic systems
been built commercially. The Antares was modified by attaching may accelerate this tendency. The multifunctional approach to
fuel cell systems may lead to further modifications in various
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two pods below the wings to carry the fuel cell system and the
hydrogen tanks. The fuel cell is slung under the left wing and the aircraft systems for efficient energy use on board. The goal of
hydrogen tank under the right wing—with a capacity of either 2 Airbus and DLR is to conceive innovative electrical architectures
or 4.9 kilograms. For that reason the wings had to be strength- in which the multifunctional fuel cell system is a key component
ened and extensive aeroelastic and aerodynamic modeling had to to ascertain a technology leadership for efficient future aircrafts.
be performed to ascertain the flight stability. This goal will be supported by national projects like EFFESYS
The advantage of the new test bed consists of the combination and Greenliner.
of different qualifying test routines. Acceleration loads, vibration DLR has worked on system modeling and simulation to
loads and climatic environments can be tested in a single run. identify beneficial system designs and multiple functions. The
Furthermore, the motor glider has reduced qualification first fuel cell system for emergency power has been demonstrated
demands and reduced regulations in comparison with a civil together with Airbus and Michelin on an A320. An airworthy
aircraft as the high gliding ratio allows a safe landing even in the test platform for flexible investigations of the multiple functions
event of a fuel cell failure. The DLR-H2 in this regard is an and applications is being developed. This platform will be used
inexpensive testing environment in which the systems for civil for flight test and rapid change of components. The platform is
aircraft can be tested in a flexible way. The fuel cell provides the planned to be tested in-flight in the A320. Furthermore, emis-
energy for the electric drive train developed by Lange Aviation sion-free ground operation is being developed and demonstrated.
which consists of high-performance electronics, electric motors Arising from the need to perform inexpensive and flexible fuel
and propellers. cell system tests in the realistic environment, the testing bed
The Antares DLR-H2 first officially took off on 7th July, 2009 DLR-H2 will be used intensively within the next few years also
at Hamburg airport. It is the world’s first piloted aircraft capable within the framework of national projects.
of taking off using only power from fuel cells.
The fuel cell systemx used to power the Antares delivers up to Acknowledgements
25 kilowatts of electrical power. When flying in a straight line, the
The development presented is a team effort. The authors are
aircraft only requires about ten kilowatts of power. In this situ-
grateful to the Fuel Cell team of Airbus for the good collabo-
ation, the fuel cell is operating at an efficiency level of approxi-
ration and teamwork the last few years and the team of Michelin
mately 52 percent. The total efficiency of the drive system from
for their contributions. In addition, the authors acknowledge the
tank to power train, including the propeller, is in the region of
contributions of Peter Schumann (system modeling), Michael
44 percent, making it about twice as efficient as conventional
Schier (electric drives), Christoph Fischer, Gerhard Schuller,
propulsion technologies based on combustion processes. Systems
Oliver Thalau (flight qualification and platform), Till Kaz,
powered by kerosene or diesel only contribute about 18 to 25
Forian Gores (Antares DLR-H2), Winfried G€ obel (low pressure
percent of their energy to propulsion.13
studies), and Jonathan Wicker (inclination tests). Special thanks
On top of that, on 21st November, 2009, Antares successfully
are due to Lufthansa Technik AG that donated the nose wheel of
completed an altitude record reaching (see Fig. 14 (d)) about
an A320.
8368 ft (ca. 2550 m) in height, corresponding to an operating
pressure for the fuel cell of about 725 millibars.14 This corre-
sponds roughly to a minimum air pressure in the cabin of an
Notes and references
Airbus A320 flight during a normal flight and is about 1 J. E. Penner, D. H. Lister, D. J. Griggs, D. J. Dokken, and
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Ron C. N. Wit, Ling L. Lim, Bethan Owena and Robert Sausen,
Aviation and global climate change in the 21st century/Atmospheric
Environment, 2009, 43, 3520–3537.
x The fuel cell systems used in the new testing bed Antares are high 3 ACARE report, European Aeronautics: A Vision for 2020, Office for
temperature PEFC with PBI membrane. More information about this official publications of the European Communities, L-2985
technology can be found in ref. 16. Luxembourg, 2001.

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1468 | Energy Environ. Sci., 2010, 3, 1458–1468 This journal is ª The Royal Society of Chemistry 2010