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  Thermal Management for Future Aerospace Propulsion

   School of Engineering & Physical Sciences

   Monday, July 22, 2024  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Global targets to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 2050 are pushing forward the development of sustainable aircraft. If action is not taken, the annual atmospheric CO2 emissions from aviation are expected to grow 67% by 2050 [1]. While small sub-regional aircraft are seeing transition to fully electric propulsion systems, significant technological development is needed to decarbonise larger regional, narrowbody, and widebody aircraft. Based on current trends, it has been predicted that the regional aircraft market will see the first use of hydrogen technology in service with the use of hydrogen fuel cell architectures as early as 2035 [2].

Converting hydrogen fuel and oxygen into electricity using reverse electrolysis, hydrogen fuel cells are not without their challenges. Despite the high energy density of hydrogen, its very low volumetric energy density is problematic for aircraft applications, particularly in terms of fuel storage. While many industrial players and academic researchers focus on this on this challenge, a lesser-known challenge lies in the large quantities of heat generated by hydrogen fuel cell stacks. According to Scholz et al. [3], the amount of heat produced by Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) is of the same order of magnitude as the electrical power produced. Adapting and optimising fuel cell cooling and thermal management systems specifically for aerospace applications presents a significant technical challenge. 

Project Aims:

This project will explore innovative thermal management solutions for aircraft fuel-cell systems with a focus on miniaturization and weight reduction.

It is expected that the project will involve:

-       Multiphase (and potentially multiscale) fluid modelling using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). 

-       Development/use of tools to model the integration thermal management systems within the aircraft conceptual design stages. 


·       Candidates should hold a first or second-class Honours degree in Aerospace, Mechanical, Electrical Engineering, or other relevant disciplines.

·       Candidates should be passionate about making contributions to sustainable aviation challenges.

·       A strong background in fluid simulation, thermal management and/or aerospace design are desirable but not essential.

How to apply:

Interested candidates are invited to submit their CV, academic transcripts, and a brief statement detailing their research interests and how their knowledge applies to the proposed topic. Please send your application to , referring to the project title. Shortlisted candidates will be contacted for interviews.

Heriot-Watt University is an equal opportunity employer. We encourage applications from candidates of all backgrounds.

The successful candidate will also be expected to contribute to the formulation and submission of research publications and research proposals as well as help manage and direct this complex and challenging project as opportunities allow.

Engineering (12)

Funding Notes

This studentship is open to UK citizens and EU applicants with pre-settled or settled status. 

International candidates are welcome to apply, however only the home student’s tuition fees are covered. Additional funding may be made available for excellent international applicants. 


[1] FlyZero Aerospace Technology Institute (2022) Market Forecasts & Strategy. Available at: (Accessed 13 March 2024)
[2] FlyZero Aerospace Technology Institute (2022) Technology Roadmaps. Available at: (Accessed 13 March 2024)
[3] Scholz, A.E., Michelmann, J., and Hornung, M. (2023) Fuel Cell Hybrid-Electric Aircraft: Design, Operational, and Environmental Impact. Journal of Aircraft 60(3), pp.606-622

Register your interest for this project

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