Complete switch to hydrogen-powered flights ‘could be possible by 2050’

Hydrogen could be used in commercial flights to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2025, says new report

Hydrogen could be used in commercial flights to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2025 and spearhead a complete transition away from conventional jet fuel by 2050.

That’s according to a new report by Australia’s national science agency Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Boeing Australia which suggests hydrogen could start playing a key role in facilitating a switch to innovative infrastructure for aircraft applications within five years.

By 2035, hydrogen could provide much deeper decarbonisation when used in conjunction with the existing airport and aircraft infrastructure, according to the findings of the report.

The scientific team also notes short-term adoption involves the replacement of equipment that currently runs on liquid fuels and batteries with hydrogen-powered fuel cell alternatives.

While not a large contributor to emissions for the sector, on-airport applications represent a straightforward and near-term opportunity to introduce clean hydrogen.

In the medium term, hydrogen can also be combined with carbon dioxide to produce a ‘drop-in’ jet fuel, which requires no change in existing aircraft infrastructure.

Given the low rate of asset turnover within the aviation sector, carbon-neutral ‘electrofuels’ can also help hydrogen to achieve decarbonisation before 2050.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said: “As we see travel resume, hydrogen presents a key solution to enable a sustainable recovery for the industry using liquid renewable fuel, and to grow future resilience from threats like oil shocks.”

General Manager of Boeing Research and Technology Michael Edward commented: “In addition to more efficient aircraft, sustainable aviation fuels like hydrogen are a necessary contributor to the decarbonisation of aviation, and we are committed to furthering their development.”

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