Airbus is developing a testing platform called Advanced Superconducting and Cryogenic Experimental powertraiN Demonstrator (ASCEND) to explore the impact of superconducting materials and cryogenic temperatures on the performance of an aircraft’s electric propulsion systems.
The introduction of superconducting materials can lower electrical resistance, which reduces power loss in conductors. When coupled with liquid hydrogen at cryogenic temperatures (-253° C), electrical systems can be cooled in order to increase the performance of the electric propulsion system.
Airbus will use ASCEND to explore the feasibility of these technologies in order to optimize propulsion architecture for low-emission and zero-emission aircraft. Results are expected to show the potential for component weight and electrical losses to be at least halved, as well as a reduction in voltage to below 500 V.
ASCEND will assess electric architectures from several hundred kilowatts to multi-megawatt applications, with and without liquid hydrogen on board.
Airbus will design and build the demonstrator over the next three years at its E-Aircraft System House. Solutions that could be adapted to turboprop, turbofan and hybrid propeller engines will be tested and evaluated by the end of 2023. The new system will support Airbus’s decision-making process for the type of propulsion system architecture required for future aircraft. ASCEND is also expected to support performance improvements for existing and future propulsion systems across the entire Airbus portfolio, including helicopters and eVTOLs, as well as regional and single-aisle aircraft.