AGH UST scientists build hydrogen drive for motor glider

Motor glider powered by hydrogen has successfully gone through construction tests on runway.

Scientists of the AGH University of Science and Technology have built a fuel cell generator powered by gaseous hydrogen for a motor glider. The aircraft, designed and built within the framework of the Programme “Applied Research” of the National Centre for Research and Development, has successfully gone through technical tests on a runway. They were the first in Poland tests of a hydrogen-powered motor glider with fuel cells.   

The team of the AGH UST Faculty of Energy and Fuels headed by professor Magdalena Dudek and Andrzej Raźniak, DSc, have built a power generator with fuel cells and a hydrogen power supply system. The device is a part of the hybrid power supply system, also equipped with a set of electrochemical batteries. The power of the system with the hydrogen drive equals 10 kW, and is sufficient for a free horizontal flight. The working time of the cells, and therefore the time of flying, depends on the amount of hydrogen stored in the fuel tanks. In the case of hydrogen accumulation under the pressure of about 200 bars in the fuel tanks of 24 dm3 in capacity, the flight time will be more or less 25 minutes (assuming the fuel cells are working with the full operating power). Hydrogen accumulated under the pressure of 300 bars enables flying for about 1 hour. The use of higher pressures of hydrogen accumulation in composite fuel tanks will make it possible to extend the time of flying. This solution is possible thanks to the use of devices increasing the pressure, the so-called “boosters”, which are already available on the Polish market. 

The power generator with fuel cells is equipped with an air cooling system, a hydrogen supply system, as well as auxiliary control and measurement systems developed by AGH UST scientists and researchers. For the power unit, the university team have also developed the methodology of starting the procedure of safe refuelling with hydrogen, as well as operating the generator. 

Professor Magdalena Dudek, Head of the Project, says: 
“A glider with the hydrogen drive is economical and friendly to the environment. The outcome of using the generator with fuel cells supplied with hydrogen is electricity, water, and waste heat. In the case of applications in aviation, it is possible to use the waste heat in different ways, for example, to heat up the pilot’s cockpit. Using this system of power supply also extends the glider’s time of flying compared to other energy sources, for example, electric batteries.” 

The project has been carried out by a scientific-industrial consortium, whose leader is the Rzeszow University of Technology, and the consortium partners are the Warsaw University of Technology, the AGH University of Science and Technology, and the Glider Factory in Jeżów Sudecki. The motor glider powered by hydrogen has successfully gone through construction tests on the runway belonging to the airport of the Aviation Training Centre in Jasionka near Rzeszow. The plans for the coming year encompass a test flight of the motor glider.