NASA has awarded a team from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign $6 million to support research into an electric aircraft.
The team will research the use of liquid hydrogen in fuel cells to power an aircraft propulsion system. They also intend to develop a design concept integrating superconducting electrical components into an aircraft that is similar in size and function to a modern single-aisle, twin-engine airliner.
Phillip Ansell, Assistant Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Urbana-Champaign and Principal Investigator of the team, said, “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.”
He added, “It’s similar to how MRIs work. 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.”