Drones could lead the way in de-carbonised air travel, PhD study finds


Drones could be at the forefront of the de-carbonisation of air travel, a doctor completing a PhD study has found.

At Imperial College in London, a young team built what it believes to be the future of air travel.

A BBC report detailed how H2Go Power is seeking a patent to store the explosive gas cheaply and safely.

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While studying for her PhD in Cambridge, Dr Enass Abo-Hamed came up with a revolutionary structure which could store hydrogen as a stable solid without compression.

The report explained how the university paired her with materials scientist, Luke Sperrin, to try to find commercial applications for the innovation.

Dr Sperrin is now chief technology officer. He and Dr Abo-Hamed formed a partnership with Canadian hydrogen fuel cell maker Ballard a year ago to create a drone which used their reactor to safely store hydrogen for flight.

Finally, after months of collaboration by phone and email, Mr Sperrin and chief product developer Peter Italiano flew to Boston for a ground-breaking test flight.

It works by the hydrogen remaining stable and solid in these structures until “coolant” is pumped through the tubes, warming them and releasing hydrogen gas to the drone’s fuel cell.

Hydrogen (H2) is pumped into one side of the fuel cell through a catalyst which frees electrons, creating electricity.

Hydrogen generates three times as much power per kilogram compared to fossil fuels which means a hydrogen-powered drone can fly further than a battery-powered drone and, potentially, carry heavier loads.

Dr Abo-Hamed told the BBC: “So if drones could stay longer in the sky, they can deliver medicine, or scan a disaster area and send the information back. My dream really is not just to make drones.”

Concluding: “Maybe in the next twenty or thirty years we could de-carbonise air travel, which is something really important for our climate.”

Tags : flightfuel cellhydrogenIn-flight
Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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