Image Courtesy: GKN Aerospace
It’s no secret that hydrogen fuel is seen as the future of aerospace. From a sustainability perspective, it’s a no-brainer to replace traditional jet fuels, so much so that it’s seen as the leading technology to help the aerospace industry reach its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Considering this target is just over 25 years away, and technology is still under development, we need to see quite a major push in the next few years. A recent partnership announcement by GKN Aerospace could be a sign of this shift, so let’s take a look at what it means.
Technically a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), GKN Aerospace has partnered with Parker Aerospace and Marshall Futureworx to combine experience and resources to help scale up the development of hydrogen fuel systems. Despite Futureworx only forming in 2021, it’s an offshoot of the larger Marshall Group, which has extensive experience in myriad engineering fields.
The MoU’s goal is quite far-reaching: it plans to support the development of hydrogen fuel cells and combustion engines. Its aim, of course, is to find novel technologies that can be adapted to small- and mid-range aircraft before scaling them up to larger and longer-range applications.
Put simply, this partnership is important because it shows the industry’s awareness of moving towards sustainable fuel sources in aviation. But it also shows how these big players in aerospace and engineering plan to combine their resources to reach this goal quicker than they could on their own.
One major influence on the partnership, for example, will be H2GEAR, a funded programme led by GKN Aerospace. Its main goal is to ground test a hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system by 2025. As part of this, researchers are looking into cryogenic motor systems and hyperconducting technology, both of which will be vital for scalable hydrogen-fuelled engines.
Similarly, Parker has extensive experience in aerospace manufacturing parts, along with research and design, making it a vital member of this MoU. The same is true for Marshall Futureworx, which focuses on harnessing emerging trends and applying its research to aerospace. As a combined team, these companies present a major force in aerospace R&D.
Currently, there are no major developments in the partnership, as it was only formally announced in August 2023. However, it plans to have a complete scalable fuel system and propulsion system by the end of the decade. Considering how much needs to happen, this is an ambitious goal.
This is arguably why a partnership between these three companies is so important: it’ll require the combined expertise of numerous specialists to tackle all the problems simultaneously. Similarly, collaborating in this way should speed things up, as systems can be developed using data without having to wait for it to be released or communicated in traditional ways.
Partnerships aren’t a new concept in aerospace. But as major deadlines loom and we’re faced with the biggest technological shift in living memory, they’ll perhaps be more important than ever before. We can only hope that this agreement between GKN, Marshall and Parker is a sign of things to come.