AeroDelft recently unveiled the prototype of Phoenix PT, which is set to take flight this July. (Image Credit: AeroDelft)
An AeroDelft team of 50 students from Delft University in the Netherlands built a prototype of an aircraft powered by liquid hydrogen. Called Phoenix PT, the aircraft does not emit any harmful emissions and is expected to take flight in July 2020. Last September, Delft University demonstrated its Flying V prototype, which is more fuel-efficient compared to traditional commercial aircraft.
Phoenix is a modernized version of the e-Genius electric glider, created at the University of Stuttgart and flown in 2011. The e-genius flew over 250 miles on battery power and is capable of traveling 620 miles with a petrol-powered range extender. The plan is for the two-crewed, 164-ft wingspan Phoenix FS aircraft to carry 22 pounds of liquid hydrogen with a 1,243-mile range while taking flight for 10 hours.
This isn’t a small prototype by any means. It consists of a 19-ft wingspan, weighs 110 lb, and carries 2.2 lb of liquid hydrogen, sufficient for a seven-hour flight with a 310 mi range. The hydrogen is stored in a cryogenic tank at -423 °F. A complex tubing system warms up the hydrogen to 32 °F before it’s run through a 1.5-kW fuel cell to charge a battery, which powers the electric propeller motor on the tail.
AeroDelft plans on flying the Phoenix PT aircraft in July. It’s expected to run on battery power first, then powered via gaseous hydrogen a few months later. It takes flight in the North Hemisphere during autumn, which is when the students plan on equipping Phoenix with the liquid hydrogen system.
Liquid hydrogen is suitable for the Phoenix aircraft because it can pack three times the energy of fossil fuels without emitting harmful gases. Only water vapor is released. Mounted with an electric motor on the tail, Phoenix generates very little noise.
Phoenix PT is remote-controlled and can travel for seven hours, reaching as far as 310 miles. (Image Credit: AeroDelft)
Now, the final version of Phoenix is currently in development and should be unveiled sometime in July. It’s expected to run on gaseous hydrogen by summer 2022, with the first full-scale liquid hydrogen flight taking place in 2024. The Phoenix FS model and the prototype are set to break all sorts of records. This project also focuses on progressing hydrogen aviation by collaborating with teams to create a framework. Doing so allows a hydrogen aircraft to become certified while determining risks associated with liquid hydrogen aviation and running systems that could help with mitigating those risks.
The team doesn’t foresee themselves commercializing the Phoenix just yet, but they are welcoming others willing to do it instead. AeroDelft also plans on building a bigger aircraft, called the Greenliner, with a liquid hydrogen airliner that can take 19 passengers, including pilots, on a 570-mile journey. However, the Phoenix needs to overcome some obstacles before the Greenliner project moves along any further.
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