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Universal Hydrogen test MW-class fuel cell powertrain using its liquid H2 module

Source: Universal Hydrogen

Zero-emission aviation solutions firm Universal Hydrogen has announced the successful test run of a MW-class fuel cell powertrain using its proprietary liquid hydrogen module to supply the fuel. 

The company claimed the powertrain as the "largest" fuel cell unit of its kind to run on liquid hydrogen, although the size and power ratings of the power mill were not revealed. The hydrogen fuel module is said to have powered 'Iron bird' test rig for over 1 hour and 40 minutes.

The demonstration, conducted at the Mojave Air & Space Port, is the first time the company's module and powertrain have been integrated together, marking another significant accomplishment on the path toward entry into passenger service planned for 2026. 

"This end-to-end demonstration of a hydrogen molecule moving from our filler/dispenser into our storage module and then into our powertrain is the first time that all the pieces of our product portfolio for regional aviation have come together," said Paul Eremenko, co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen. "The next step is to upgrade our flight testbed to fly the powertrain fueled by our modules."

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The 'Iron bird' is a functional analogue of the powertrain that Universal Hydrogen has been flight testing since March 2023. The company's liquid hydrogen module holds fuel to power the rig for over three hours at full power. It is said that two such modules is sufficient for 500 nautical miles of usable range for an ATR 72 regional airliner.

Developed at Universal Hydrogen's engineering and design center in Toulouse, France, the liquid hydrogen module is the core of the company's fuel services offering for aviation. It internalizes all the complexity of managing cryogenic hydrogen, while externally presenting a simple container interface compatible with existing intermodal freight and airport cargo handling equipment, according to the company.

The module contains about 200 kilograms of liquid hydrogen and is capable of storing it for long durations without boiloff. It has systems to convert cryogenic liquid hydrogen into warm gaseous hydrogen that is consumed by the powertrain.

Moreover, the module also incorporates features such as hydrogen leak detection and venting systems for safe operations, as well as a leak-proof quick-connect for easy installation and removal of the module from the aircraft.

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Author : Dhiyanesh Ravichandran
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