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Analysis and development of fuel cell propulsion systems for drones and manned aircraft

Project Description

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has adopted a set of ambitious targets to mitigate CO2 emissions from air transport:
• An average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5% per year from 2009 to 2020
• A cap on net aviation CO2 emissions from 2020 (carbon-neutral growth)
• A reduction in net aviation CO2 emissions of 50% by 2050, relative to 2005 levels

One of the strategies to achieve these CO2 targets is the use of improved technology such as sustainable fuels.

Fuel cells are devices that convert hydrogen, or hydrogen rich fuels, into electricity. When the hydrogen fuel is derived from renewable sources it is considered that fuel cells have good potential to reduce carbon emissions in the aviation sector.

Fuel cells also offer a number of advantages over the charge provided by batteries when used as the propulsion system in drones and there are examples of fuel cells being employed in manned aircraft as reported in 2016 in the Engineer article, Fuel cell aircraft makes maiden flight (https://www.theengineer.co.uk/fuel-cell-aircraft-hy4-makes-maiden-flight/) amongst others.

To develop the practical understanding of how fuel cells could be applied in the aviation sector to assist in achieving the IATA CO2 targets, this research project will:
• Investigate and define the current state of the art for the use of hydrogen fuel cells in the aviation sector;
• Develop practical design methodologies for incorporating fuel cell propulsion systems in manned and unmanned aircraft;
• Build a prototype fuel cell powered flying device or convert a battery/ conventionally powered flying device; and
• Demonstrate the practical design methodologies developed as part of the research.

This research will initially involve the development of a comprehensive mathematical modelling approach, followed by the construction of experimental prototypes to validate the results from the mathematical models, as well as to identify any practical issues that might arise.

The project will suit candidates with a sound engineering background, with strong analytical, mathematical and practical skills. Candidates with a good first degree in an engineering-based subject would be preferred, although outstanding candidates with other scientific or mathematical backgrounds would also be considered.

Candidates will work in a large multidisciplinary Faculty with an excellent range of facilities for carrying out both modelling and experimental work.

Funding Notes

There is no funding for this project: applications can only be accepted from self-funded candidates

How good is research at Kingston University in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 14.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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