A fuel cell is an onboard electrical power generation system that is both autonomous and silent. It is composed of a fuel cell, a gaseous hydrogen tank, a compressor, an electric converter and a computer.
Electricity generated using hydrogen and oxygen
No sound emission
No pollutant emissions (CO2, CO, NOx or particles)
An aircraft requires power to supply various functions such as engine start-up, flight controls, lighting, etc. This power is currently supplied by the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), which operates using aviation fuel and onboard batteries.
Fuel cells offer an alternative, which can aid or even replace existing solutions, to supply electrical power. The operating principle, which is simple and very reliable, is based on a chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen, which produces an electrical current, water and heat.
This source of "clean" energy, which only consumes the oxygen in the air and gaseous hydrogen, produces no harmful emissions and is completely silent. It is highly autonomous and can operate for the whole duration of a flight, including for long-haul flights at high altitudes.
It offers high efficiency and great operational flexibility. Fuel cells enable the level of electrical power to be adapted to suit actual needs, by adjusting the consumption of hydrogen and oxygen.
They can also meet needs for variation, from a few watts to a megawatt.
- © Safran
- © Frédéric Lancelot / CAPA Pictures / Safran
- © Philippe Stroppa / Safran