Funding Confirmed for Cranfield Hydrogen Integration Incubator

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Funding Confirmed for Cranfield Hydrogen Integration Incubator

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Aerospace university will be a hub for developing hydrogen propulsion for aviation.

The UK’s Cranfield University is to establish a research hub to advance the development of hydrogen-powered aircraft with £69 million ($87 million) in new public-private funding announced this week. The new Cranfield Hydrogen Integration Incubator (CH2i) is backed by £46 million injected by industry partners including Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Marshall, and Cranfield Aerospace Solutions, and a further £23 million from the UK government’s Research Partnership Investment Fund (RPIF).

CH2i is intended to be a platform through which multiple partners can join forces to work on the production, integration, and use of hydrogen to support net-zero objectives to decarbonize air transport. It will be connected to Cranfield’s new Centre for Doctoral Training in Net Zero Aviation, which is intended to stimulate research in areas such as production technologies, catalysts, materials, structures, storage tanks, aircraft designs, and engines. Academic partners include Imperial College London, the Midlands Innovation Energy Research Accelerator, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, the UK Aerospace Research Consortium, the UK Collaboration for Research on Infrastructure and Cities, and the National Physical Laboratory.

The Centre for Doctoral Training is expected to provide paths for PhD students to work with private sector companies. On Wednesday, Lyte Aviation said it plans to offer opportunities to be involved in the development of its LA-44 SkyBus hybrid-hydrogen-electric aircraft.

“CH2i will integrate with other large industry research areas at Cranfield, including our novel hydrogen production programs and our Aerospace Integration Research Centre and the Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre,” explained professor Karen Holford, chief executive and vice-chancellor of Cranfield University. “Working with research and industry partners nationally and internationally, we will unlock some of the most significant challenges around the future development and deployment of hydrogen in aviation. It’s a very exciting prospect for our researchers, partners, and for the aviation industry. It will help to build the pathway to net zero emissions aviation.”

The Cranfield campus in southern England includes its own airport, research aircraft, and air traffic control facilities. The site has a controlled airside environment that can demonstrate, test, and advance new technologies, systems, and processes at scale.

The new CH2i facility will consist of the existing Hydrogen Integration Research Centre and the new Enabling Hydrogen Innovation test area with two test beds for work on gaseous and liquid hydrogen, as well as fuel systems, storage, and propulsion system integration and increased capacity for testing hydrogen demonstrator aircraft and powertrains. The new funding will be committed to providing new equipment, project management, and staffing to support the project.

Other industry partners in CH2i include Toyota, Siemens Engineering, London Heathrow Airport, Element 2, Hywaves, GTI Energy, Modular Clinton Global, and Equilibrion. Cranfield is one of four universities to receive RPIF support that has now totaled more than £1 billion.

Cranfield Aerospace Solutions is based on the campus, where it is working on its plans to develop a hydrogen-powered version of the Britten-Norman Islander. Earlier this month, the company completed the integration of its hydrogen fuel cell powertrain into the nacelle of a testbed aircraft as it prepares to start flight testing with a technology demonstrator by the end of 2024.

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