Illinois University researchers have won a $6 million funding from NASA to develop energy storage solutions for all-electric aircraft.
Commercial aviation continues to be one of the leading contributors of greenhouse gas emissions across the U.S. and international transportation industry.
The industry’s continued dependency on hydrocarbon fuels has further made aircraft operation costs peak to never before seen levels.
Reports suggest that U.S. air travel is bound to increase by 90 percent within the next 20 years, leading to even greater emissions.
There is hence a dire need to address these issues at the earliest.
One such way of doing this could be the introduction of electrically-driven propulsion systems for commercial aircraft systems.
Illinios’ research falls in this line as it aims to usher in a fundamental shift away from jet fuel towards more sustainable energy sources.
It plans to do this through its NASA-funded CHEETA project. CHEETA stands for ‘Center for Cryogenic High-Efficiency Electrical Technologies for Aircraft.’
“Essentially, the program focuses on the development of a fully electric aircraft platform that uses cryogenic liquid hydrogen as an energy storage method,” says principal investigator for the project, Phillip Ansell.
“The hydrogen chemical energy is converted to electrical energy through a series of fuel cells, which drive the ultra-efficient electric propulsion system.”
“The low temperature requirements of the hydrogen system also provide opportunities to use superconducting, or lossless, energy transmission and high-power motor systems.”
“It’s similar to how MRIs work, magnetic resonance imaging,” adds Ansell. “However, these necessary electrical drivetrain systems do not yet exist, and the methods for integrating electrically driven propulsion technologies into an aircraft platform have not yet been effectively established.”
“This program seeks to address this gap and make foundational contributions in technologies that will enable fully electric aircraft of the future.”
Image and content: University of Illinois