Universal Hydrogen completes test of liquid H2 fuel module for aviation

Module test at the Mojave Air & Space Port Module test at the Mojave Air & Space Port (Photo: Universal Hydrogen)

Universal Hydrogen has announced the successful test of a ‘megawatt-class’ fuel cell powertrain using its proprietary liquid hydrogen module to supply the fuel.

The liquid H2 module powered the company’s ‘iron bird’ ground test rig for more than 100 minutes. This equates to a regional aircraft flight profile.

Conducted at the Mojave Air & Space Port, this was the first time the H2 module and powertrain had been integrated in a test scenario.

Iron bird is a functional analogue of the powertrain which Universal Hydrogen has been flight testing since March 2023.

The liquid hydrogen module can hold sufficient fuel to power the iron bird for more than three hours at full power. Two full modules can deliver an equivalent range of 500 nautical miles (575 miles, 926 km) when used in an ATR 72 turboprop airliner.

“This is the largest fuel cell powertrain ever to run on liquid hydrogen,” said Mark Cousin, president and CTO at Universal Hydrogen.

Developed at the company’s engineering and design center in Toulouse, France, the liquid H2 module is the core offering for aviation fuel services. It is said to internalize all complexities of managing cryogenic H2, while externally presenting a simple container interface compatible with existing intermodal freight and airport cargo handling equipment.

Each module can store up to 200 kg of liquid hydrogen for extended periods without boil off. Internal systems convert the cryogenic H2 into gaseous hydrogen used by the powertrain.

Additional features include H2 leak detection and venting systems. There is also a leak-proof quick-connect system for installation and removal from the aircraft.

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


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