Airbus Steps Up Liquid Hydrogen Tank Development Effort

Airbus Steps Up Liquid Hydrogen Tank Development Effort

Thierry Dubois January 09, 2024

Airbus Zeroe fuel cell engine demonstrator

Credit: Airbus SAS 2021

LYON—Airbus is establishing a ZEROe development center in Stade, Germany, focusing on composite materials for hydrogen systems such as liquid hydrogen tanks.

The airframer had thus far worked on metallic structures for such tanks, especially at its ZEROe development centers (ZEDC) in Bremen, Germany, and Nantes, France. The additional effort suggests Airbus intends to advance both technologies in parallel. ZEROe is the generic name Airbus uses for future zero-emission aircraft that would rely on liquid hydrogen instead of conventional fuel and enter into service in 2035.

Typically, under the STOHYC (Stockage d’Hydrogène Cryogénique) demonstration program, the technology readiness level (TRL) for a metallic liquid hydrogen tank was brought to TRL 4. A higher TRL, usually TRL 6, is required before considering the launch of a product development. One of the program’s partners, Aresia, is a specialist in conventional metallic tanks and sees lighter-weight composites as an option for the longer term.

A focus of ZEDC Stade will be the development of cost-effective lightweight hydrogen systems (e.g. cryogenic hydrogen tanks) using carbon fiber-reinforced plastics. The work will include part design and manufacturing, as well as testing assembly methods. Engineers in Stade will cooperate with their colleagues at other Airbus locations, such as the ZEDCs in Bremen, Filton (UK), Madrid, and Nantes.

“This ZEDC will benefit from the broader ecosystem of composite materials research and development such as Airbus’ Composite Technology Center and the CFK NORD research center in Stade, as well as further synergies from space and maritime activities,” Airbus CTO Sabine Klauke said.