OVERLEAF: safe and economical hydrogen storage in aircraft

News - 11 October 2022

Earlier this year the Horizon Europe innovation consortium OVERLEAF was launched. The 10-strong consortium from 6 European countries develops a novel low-pressure cryogenic liquid hydrogen storage tank for aircraft. TU Delft researchers Dr. Roger Groves (Aerospace Engineering) and Dr. Lars Bannenberg (Applied Sciences) and technician Herman Schroeders (Applied Sciences) are part of the consortium. They develop sensor technology for the safety systems needed for these hydrogen storage tanks. Roger Groves: “With this research we contribute to the transition to clean aviation.” 

Credit: Getty Images

Flying on hydrogen is considered a major step towards climate neutral aviation, but it comes with its challenges. The hydrogen needs to be stored and used safely, efficiently and affordably on board aircraft, there is a logistical puzzle for the distribution of hydrogen to airports and of course the hydrogen needs to be produced sustainably. The OVERLEAF consortium focuses on the first challenge: the storage of liquid hydrogen on board aircraft. It develops a novel low-pressure cryogenic liquid hydrogen storage tank for aircraft, based on the combination of innovative functional and high-performance materials, thermal insulating materials  and hydrogen leak detection sensors.

Roger Groves at Aerospace Engineering and Lars Bannenberg and Herman Schroeders at Applied Sciences are developing the sensor technology for safe operation. For  leak detection  they use patented hydrogen sensing materials that have been developed using the Neutron reflectometer at the Reactor Institute Delft. Particularly challenging  is to test and adapt these materials such that they can detect hydrogen even at low-temperatures, essential to detect leaks of hydrogen tanks in airplanes. They are also developing structural health monitoring systems to monitor the degradation of the hydrogen storage tank under the extreme temperature shock of refilling the tank.

Launched in May 2022, OVERLEAF runs for three years and has a 10-strong consortium from six European countries. It is led by Spanish composite structures company Aciturri Engineering and involves leading innovative companies and suppliers in the aeronautics sector, as well as academic institutions, including TU Delft.

Visit the OVERLEAF website.

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