Rolls Royce and easyJet aim to Develop Hydrogen Combustion Engine Technology

Published on: 24th October 2023

Rolls Royce and easyJet have been in collaboration with Loughborough University and have reached a breakthrough with the research they have been doing towards their hydrogen aviation project.

Rolls Royce and easyJet created a partnership with their shared aim to develop hydrogen combustion engine technology, which would be capable of powering a range of aircrafts. They have recently announced an advancement with this project.

The companies have been working alongside Loughborough University and have been using the university’s National Centre for Combustions and Aerothermal Technology (NCCAT), as well as the German Aerospace Centre Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft-und Raumfahrt (DLR) to run tests on their project. They have been using a full annular combustor from a Pearl 700 engine running on 100% hydrogen. This has proved that whilst being kept in conditions representing maximum take-off thrust, their fuel can be combusted.

This breakthrough means that Rolls Royce and easyJet can move on to the next steps of their project, which involves more testing. The companies plan to run a full gas hydrogen ground test on a Pearl Engine. They discovered the first part of the testing process was a success due to the equipment they were using to perform the test. Whilst at NCCTA and DLR in Cologne the companies designed advanced fuel spray nozzles which control the combustion process. The advantage of these designs means that the nozzle is able to control the flame position using a new system that progressively mixes air with the hydrogen. This results in enabling the ability to manage the fuels reactivity. The nozzles were tested at both half capacity and then this was increased to full capacity. This was a success and now the companies can move onto the next stage of testing. If the next step is a success too, a simulation including liquid hydrogen will be the step after as both companies share ambitions to take the technology to flight. If this step is reached, the project will be an incredible step forwards for the aviation industry, as it will prove that hydrogen is a realistic aviation fuel for future use.

Chief Technology at Rolls-Royce Grazia Vittadini, commented, “Controlling the combustion process is one of the key technology challenges that industry faces in making hydrogen a real aviation fuel of the future.”