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Generation of Hydrogen by Kerosene Reforming via Efficient and Low-Emission New Alternative, Innovative, Refined Technologies for Aircraft Application

Tags: Air

State of the Art - Background

Europe is an important player as far as climate change is concerned. Following this line, the aeronautic industry aim at 'greener' aircraft and a 'greener' air transport' system.

Another topic thoroughly investigated is the improvement in new aircraft architectures, in particular simplifying the secondary onboard energy systems. In the future, the three systems presently on aircraft, i.e. hydraulic, pneumatic and electric, shall be ultimately reduced to just an electric one.

One option of these advanced aircraft architectures is that the engines are primarily used to produce thrust, and additional onboard electric power is generated by a separate autonomous unit, for which fuel cells are a promising candidate.

Despite the widespread discussion about a hydrogen economy, kerosene will remain the one and only aviation fuel for the coming decades. However, the key problem of applying fuel cells on board an aircraft will be to generate hydrogen from the onboard kerosene fuel.

For this purpose various processes, e.g. autothermal or catalytic partial oxidation, have already been investigated. GreenAir deals with two alternatives, which promise to be better suited to aircraft application.


GreenAir will elaborate the fundamentals of two unconventional methods to generate hydrogen from kerosene for continuous operation of a fuel-cell system on board an aircraft: partial dehydrogenation (PDh) and plasma-assisted reforming (PAF).

The main objectives include the definition of requirements and the elaboration of concepts for their implementation into aircraft. The proof of concept will be carried out with breadboard systems in the power range of 1 kW (PDh) to 5 kW (PAF) - big enough to allow a judgement of the technology with respect to its viability and scaling-up and small enough to be cost effective.

H2-generation from kerosene by plasmaassisted reforming (PAF)
H2-generation from kerosene by plasmaassisted reforming (PAF)
H2-generation from kerosene by partial dehydrogenation (PDh)
H2-generation from kerosene by partial dehydrogenation (PDh)

Description of Work

The project is divided into three technical sub-projects (SP).

SP1 will investigate the issue of aircraft integration, specifically with respect to fuel processing technology.

SP2 is the main sub-project and deals with the 'technical hardware' based on the following main activities:

- development of partial dehydrogenation by lab-scale catalyst performance tests, followed by an up-scaling to about the 1 kW level;

- adaptation of plasma-assisted reforming by development and performance tests at about the 5 kW level;

- experimental determination of methods for the fractionation of kerosene;

- modelling of processes in order to assist and facilitate hardware development.

SP3 consists of the construction and testing of breadboard systems at simulated flight conditions.

Expected Results

The major deliverables of the project are:

- aircraft requirements, interfaces, safety and integration concepts;

- basic proof of concept for partial dehydrogenation (PDh);

- proof of concept for plasma-assisted reforming (PAF);

- simulated flight tests for both breadboard systems;

- evaluation of aircraft applicability for both PDh and PAF.