Aircraft maker Airbus has been awarded the GreenTec Award in the Aviation category for its research on the possible use of fuel cells to replace the traditional auxiliary power units in aircraft.
Fuel cells generate electricity by combining hydrogen with oxygen. Pure water, heat and inert gas (mainly nitrogen) are the only by-products of the generation process.
Airbus’ fuel cell research focuses on multifunctional fuel cell systems that can supply the aircraft with electric power and use the by-products in various aircraft systems.
The generated electricity can be used for conventional aircraft systems as well as for starting the main engines and for emissions-free autonomous ground operations at airports.
The nitrogen gas can replace traditional halon-based fire suppression systems for the cargo hold and can also be used to minimize the risk of ignition in the fuel tanks. The water can be used in the water supply systems of the aircraft.
Fuel cells also weigh less, thereby reducing in-flight fuel burn and emissions, and generate significantly lower noise and emissions during ground operations at airports.
GreenTec Awards are awarded yearly for projects on eco-management and environment-friendly technologies.