July 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 3 
Special Features

Fuel cells in the air

Fuel Cells in the AirImagine you're outdoors at a busy airport with jetliners dotting its flight line. But something is different. The hiss of auxiliary power units (APUs) is gone. Instead, a whisper from the tail of the nearest jet tells you a fuel cell is providing clean, quiet, and efficient power for the airplane while it's on the ground.

Boeing engineers are working to realize this tantalizing vision, which is just one of many fuel cell initiatives today being pursued across the company. Fuel cells are devices that convert the chemical energy of fuel and oxygen into electrical energy without combustion. They are extremely clean, highly efficient, and inherently reliable because the fuel cell stack itself has no moving parts. When fueled with pure hydrogen, fuel cells emit only pure water and warm air as exhaust. When hydrocarbon fuels are substituted, they have far lower emission levels than combustion engines.


International fuel cell efforts include Boeing

A quiet, pollution-free, electric airplane might soon take to the skies. Experts at Boeing Research and Technology Europe in Madrid, Spain, are working on a project called the Fuel Cell Demonstrator Airplane. This multinational program is providing Boeing people with invaluable firsthand experience in fuel cells and their application to aviation.

BR&TE was formed in July 2002 as a center of excellence in environmental, safety and reliability, and air traffic management technologies. A part of Boeing Phantom Works, the Madrid center collaborates with industry, academia, and other centers of research across the European continent.


Fuel cells to keep UAVs aloft

U.S. military forces and government agencies today need unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with long endurances aloft to conduct extended surveillance and reconnaissance missions. However, this capability does not yet exist, and surveillance satellites cannot make up the shortfall because their continuing orbits do not allow constant focus on an area of interest.

To meet this emerging requirement, engineers at the Advanced Unmanned Systems unit of Phantom Works' Integrated Defense Advanced Systems (IDeAS) organization are currently integrating fuel cells into Boeing UAV designs. This approach uses cryogenically stored liquid hydrogen to power the aircraft's onboard fuel cell.



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