Heat Exchangers Pave the Way for Fuel Cell-Powered Aircraft

Innovative Heat Transfer Technologies for Fuel Cell-Powered Small Aircraft

As part of the funded joint project "WUe-FluB," the project partners Hülsenbusch Apparatebau GmbH & Co. KG, Rosswag GmbH, IMA Materialforschungs- und Anwendungstechnik, SWM Struktur- und Werkstoffmechanikforschung gGmbH, the Institute of Aerospace Engineering at the Technical University of Dresden, and the Institute of Thermodynamics at Leibniz University Hannover are developing and testing additively manufactured lightweight heat exchangers for fuel cell-powered small aircraft.

The WUe-FluB project is funded under the National Innovation Program for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Phase 2 with a total of approximately 1,551,000 euros by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV). The funding guidelines are coordinated by NOW GmbH and implemented by Project Management Jülich (PtJ).

To significantly reduce climate-damaging emissions during the operation of aircraft, novel propulsion technologies must be employed in addition to alternative fuels in the future. Electrification of the drivetrain plays an important role in this context. One option is to provide electrical power through a fuel cell system.

In addition to the reaction product water, a fuel cell also emits heat as a byproduct of the process. This heat must be dissipated to the environment through active heat transfer using coolers during all phases of a flight. Two points are particularly important when selecting a cooler:

  • The significantly lower temperature difference between the process and the environment compared to a gas turbine makes heat transfer more challenging.
  • The aerodynamic resistance of the heat exchangers limits design flexibility and size.

Therefore, the possibilities of additive manufacturing are being utilized to develop and test compact and lightweight high-performance coolers with minimal pressure loss and good integration capability into existing aircraft structures.

"Additive manufacturing offers us the unique opportunity to develop thermally and structurally optimized heat exchangers that are specifically tailored to the needs of fuel cell-powered aircraft and other mobility applications," explains Dr. Wolfgang Bender, head of the joint project (Hülsenbusch).

Furthermore, by developing a methodology for thermal-structural optimization, a foundation is being laid for future automated optimization processes in the development of novel heat exchangers.

For more information about the WUe-FluB project and collaboration opportunities, please contact:

Project Leader: Dr. Wolfgang Bender

Head of Research and Development
Hülsenbusch Apparatebau GmbH & Co. KG
Phone: +49 (0) 2152 / 14 17 - 130
Email: wolfgang.bender@huelsenbusch.de

Additive Manufacturing Contact: Philipp Schwarz

Business Development Manager
Rosswag GmbH
Email: p.schwarz@rosswag-engineering.de

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