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.