Philip Haupt, Director of the NAC said “hydrogen fuel
cells technology is set to become a game-changer in
aerospace and a number of other fields.
This project provides global visibility of South Africa’s
expertise in the field.
In addition, by leading the project that will
further the understanding and maturation of hydrogen
fuel cell technology, South Africa will be able to place
its advanced manufacturing sector in a prime position to
take advantage of the inevitable opportunities that will
Besides emission-free and low-noise aircraft operation,
fuel cells would reduce the overall weight of aircraft,
leading to lower fuel burn and operating costs together
with further reduced carbon emissions during flight.
As by-products, hydrogen fuel cells could enable
aircraft to generate their own water supplies.
They would also have a safety benefit through
their ability to generate inerting gas used to reduce
flammability levels in aircraft fuel tanks and for
suppressing any cargo hold fires.
Fuel cells, because they do not have any moving parts,
are less maintenance intensive than conventional APUs.
They could also potentially replace heavy batteries and
conventional fuel tank inerting systems.
In doing so they would reduce the weight and fuel
consumption of fuel cell-equipped aircraft.
Airbus has already performed test flights involving fuel
cells to power individual emergency power systems, the
knowledge and technology maturation is still on its way
to reach a level to permit the complete replacement of
the electrical power systems with a multi-functional
The project with HySA Systems Competence Centre will go
some way to closing that gap.
It is being undertaken at postgraduate level and
will identify the factors influencing fuel cell
performance, ageing and monitoring and will then
consider how these could be adopted for use in aircraft.