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Fuel cells provide backup electrical power for an Airbus A320

When we think of fuel cell technology, automobiles most often come to mind. Companies like Ford have showcased fuel cell prototypes for future deployments while General Motors is currently delivering production fuel cell vehicles to regular Americans.

Today’s development in fuel cell technology comes from an unlikely source: an aircraft manufacturer.

Airbus was able to use a hydrogen fuel cell -- developed in conjunction with Michelin -- to serve as a power source for an Airbus A320's backup hydraulic and electrical systems as well as the aircraft's ailerons. In its current iteration, the fuel cell provides 20 kW of power and produces water as a byproduct of regular operation.

Airbus says that the water generated from the fuel cell can be used for the aircraft's onboard water systems which would save weight. Weight would also be saved since less jet fuel would be required to power onboard electrical generators.

"Fuel cells offer tremendous potential environmental benefits and operational savings", said Patrick Gavin, Airbus' Executive Vice President of Engineering. "This is another example of Airbus providing leadership for an eco-efficient industry, one which creates value with less environmental impact."

Airbus hopes to further develop its fuel cell technology to replace the emergency power systems and Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). Replacing the APU with a fuel cell system would greatly reduce noise pollution which has become a growing problem with airports.

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Greatly reduce noise?
By bldckstark on 2/21/2008 12:54:24 PM , Rating: 2
How is removing generators from planes going to "greatly reduce noise pollution"? The APU often cannot be heard from more than a few feet away in comparison to the turbines. The jet engines are loud enough to be heard from miles away. Fuel cell APU's will do nothing to reduce the noise pollution created at airports and stating that they will is absolute horsecrap.

I have lived near an international airport for 38 years, and the noise doesn't bother me. I was stationed near an Air Force base while I was in the Army. Now that was loud.

RE: Greatly reduce noise?
By Orktaq on 2/21/2008 1:19:08 PM , Rating: 3
That's the sound of freedom you were hearing...
No matter what the application, we should be advocating fuel cell adoption in as wide a variety of environments as possible. Maybe that will wake the sleeping giant of corporate America.

RE: Greatly reduce noise?
By Ringold on 2/21/2008 7:47:38 PM , Rating: 2
It doesn't need to be 'advocated' to businesses if it makes sense; if it does, they'll adopt it of their own accord to save money.

I read several years ago in AOPA of experimental light aircraft that tried to make use of fuel cells; it had an endurance time measured in minutes if I recall. They're too heavy and vastly too expensive for general use in aviation. Good luck to Airbus to try to overcome its inherent disadvantages; I guess perhaps wide-bodied beasts are large enough in size to see the gains. For small planes though the energy density kills it.

RE: Greatly reduce noise?
By eldeficit on 2/21/2008 11:26:00 PM , Rating: 2
Hydrogen technology is only heavy because of the batteries. Hygrogen reactors are really small and not that heavy at all, and hydrogen is the lightest substance...

RE: Greatly reduce noise?
By Zoomer on 2/21/2008 7:48:22 PM , Rating: 2
The airlines aren't keeping the turbines running all the time when the jets are parked at the gate. The cost would bankrupt them. :p

By SavagePotato on 2/21/08, Rating: -1
RE: Kaboom
By 3kliksphilip on 2/21/2008 12:32:14 PM , Rating: 2
Stick a load of Solar Panels on the wings and all will be fine.

RE: Kaboom
By ZeroGuardian on 2/21/2008 12:51:30 PM , Rating: 2
Except for those "over night" flights. :P

But in all reality you can't really compare this to the Hindenburg. The hydrogen fuel tanks that will be used are FAR better at withstanding problems than a blimp. Most of these tanks are rated at 10,000+ PSI and those numbers are always conservative. Plus the tanks are flame-retardent and can handle even a shot from a 9mm pistol without puncturing the casing. I think everyone will be fine.

RE: Kaboom
By dice1111 on 2/21/2008 2:52:30 PM , Rating: 4
I'm sure the snakes will find a way to puncture it...

RE: Kaboom
By CrasHxxx on 2/21/2008 2:55:21 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Kaboom
By SavagePotato on 2/21/2008 3:12:57 PM , Rating: 1
Saves Al Queda some time too, 10000psi compressed hydrogen should add to the pop factor in plane hijackings.

RE: Kaboom
By wwwebsurfer on 2/21/2008 12:53:15 PM , Rating: 2
yes, because solar panels to survive flight mechanical and thermal stress cost peanuts at the local Walmart. Although a noble idea, it's simply not practical to trust flight systems to anything exposed to the elements.

RE: Kaboom
By goku on 2/22/2008 6:40:49 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure they could do a hybrid of both, if the panels don't provide enough juice then the turbines in the jet engine makes up for it, if it's a sunny day then the panels could provide extra juice to the plane and therefore don't have to use jetfuel to power the interior compartment.

RE: Kaboom
By MAIA on 2/21/2008 12:52:09 PM , Rating: 2
Nope, they way it is accommodated is though

RE: Kaboom
By eye smite on 2/21/2008 1:51:24 PM , Rating: 4
I'm willing to bet they've made enough advancements since then for it to be a little safer. I'm just speculating though.

RE: Kaboom
By DEMO24 on 2/21/08, Rating: 0
"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

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