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Fuel Cell System for Aircraft Propulsion

Opportunities enabled:
United States

Background: Aircraft thrust is traditionally come from a combustion engine (internal combustion or gas turbine) coupled to either a propeller or a nozzle to produce thrust. These systems deliver high performance but also have high emissions and low fuel efficiency. Some proposals have used fuel cells as propulsion devices by using the electricity a fuel cell produces to power an electric motor linked to a propeller. This system lowers emissions and increases fuel efficiencies but increases weight due to the substantial electric motors required for primary propulsive power. This system is also performance limited on the physical limits of the propeller itself. Also the problem with installing a hydrogen-fuel infrastructure in the world's airports makes it economically unfeasible.

Technology Description: University researchers have developed a means of providing propulsive power for an aircraft without the need for heavy electric propulsion motors and without the limitations of the propeller. It utilizes a high temperature fuel cell instead of or in conjunction with internal combustion to provide higher fuel efficiencies and lower exhaust emissions. High temperature fuel cells allow the usage of a wide range of fuels including jet fuel and aviation gasoline.

Applications: Conventional aircraft jet engines


1) Provide higher fuel efficiencies 2) Lower exhaust emissions

Date of release: