In a groundbreaking collaboration with Loughborough University and the German Aerospace Centre Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt (DLR), Rolls-Royce, in tandem with their partner easyJet, has achieved a significant milestone in the development of hydrogen combustion engine technology. Their unwavering commitment to pioneering the future of aviation, particularly in the narrow-body market segment from the mid-2030s onwards, has led to a pivotal breakthrough.
The project’s latest achievement involves rigorous testing on a full annular combustor of a Pearl 700 engine at DLR in Cologne, using 100% hydrogen as the primary fuel source, replicating maximum take-off thrust conditions. What sets this accomplishment apart is the successful design of advanced fuel spray nozzles, crucial for managing the combustion process, a feat that entailed overcoming substantial engineering challenges. Hydrogen, being significantly hotter and faster-burning than traditional kerosene, demanded innovative solutions to control its combustion effectively. The newly developed nozzles incorporate a novel system that progressively mixes air with hydrogen to regulate the fuel’s reactivity, resulting in both combustor operability and emissions falling within anticipated parameters.
The journey toward harnessing hydrogen as a viable aviation fuel has seen initial testing of individual nozzles at Loughborough University’s state-of-the-art facilities, and further evaluation at DLR Cologne. This successful collaboration builds upon last year’s milestone when easyJet and Rolls-Royce achieved the world’s first operation of a modern aero engine, the AE2100, powered by green hydrogen at Boscombe Down, UK.
These recent advancements signify a deepening understanding of the combustion component within the hydrogen program. The focus now shifts towards developing systems for fuel delivery to the engine and integrating these systems seamlessly with the engine itself. With this remarkable progress, Rolls-Royce and its partners are taking bold strides toward a future where hydrogen propels the aviation industry into an era of sustainable, environmentally friendly flight.