Rethinking Aircraft Components to Slash Emissions

Every time an airplane takes off or touches down, its wing flaps extending and retracting serve as a tangible reminder of the intricate nature of aircraft. Innovating these elements could offer a path to curtailing the greenhouse gas emissions, with aviation presently contributing 2.5% of the world’s CO2 output.

The EU’s ReFuelEU legislation has set forth binding requirements to boost the use of sustainable aviation fuels, aiming for 70% by 2050. However, trimming an aircraft’s weight stands as another avenue for emission reduction, as demonstrated by the EU-funded SWING project. The project’s focus was the Krueger flaps located at the front of an aircraft’s wing. They designed a lighter version using recyclable thermoplastic polymers, resulting in a nearly 20% weight reduction for the component.

In the FLHYSAFE initiative, researchers sought to replace the conventional emergency power unit with a hydrogen-powered alternative. This novel system not only promises improved safety but also significant environmental benefits. By showcasing the viability of hydrogen within aviation, they aspire to make zero-emission air travel a reality.

Although these innovations hold substantial promise, the incorporation into existing aircraft is not projected before 2030 due to stringent aviation certification procedures. Moreover, hydrogen storage technologies are yet to reach maturity. Despite their seemingly modest scale, these developments have the potential to transform aircraft design and deliver substantial emissions reductions. This research was financially supported by the EU and plays a crucial role in the ongoing battle against climate change.