Hydrogen Aviation Lab

 A new life in the service of science

A decommissioned Airbus A320 is becoming the Hydrogen Aviation Lab, Hamburg's new field laboratory for developing processes for future hydrogen-powered aircraft.

The aviation industry is striving to become carbon-neutral, with hydrogen widely expected to play a role as a future energy carrier. This requires not only new aircraft but also new infrastructure on the ground. Hamburg is forging a path towards such a hydrogen infrastructure: Together with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the ZAL Center for Applied Aeronautical Research and Hamburg Airport, we have joint forces to design and test maintenance and ground-based processes for hydrogen technology. The project is funded by Hamburg's Ministry of Economic Affairs and Innovation as well as the city's investment and development bank (IFB Hamburg). 

We prepared the aircraft – which flew for Lufthansa Group for 30 years as "Halle an der Saale" – for its crucial next stage. Currently, the Hydrogen Aviation Lab is being fitted with a full suite of test systems as well as an internal tank for liquid hydrogen and an onboard fuel cell, paired with supporting ground-based hydrogen infrastructure. 

While this Airbus A320 will no longer be taking to the skies, it is capable of being towed to locations at the Lufthansa Technik base and Hamburg Airport to enable real-world research of ground-based processes. 

With the Hydrogen Aviation Lab, the project partners want to prepare for handling and maintenance of hydrogen-powered aircraft, whose entry into service is forecast for the middle of the next decade. Yet the laboratory will also spur on developers of future hydrogen-powered aircraft generations by helping optimise the procedures and safety levels during maintenance work or ground-handling.

A particularly striking example is refuelling with liquid hydrogen (Liquid H2, or LH2 for short). Using current technology, the refuelling for a long-haul flight could possibly take several hours. Given the pressure on aircraft turnaround times in the airline industry, this would be clearly impracticable. The Hydrogen Aviation Lab is designed to address this and many other areas of research.

Areas of research 

Main topics

  • Refuelling with liquid hydrogen
  • Cooling, insulation and occupational safety
  • Leakage of hydrogen gas
  • Making stored hydrogen inert

Parallel to research carried out using the physical hardware of the Hydrogen Aviation Lab, the project also involves the creation of a so-called digital twin of the Airbus A320. Therein, simulations will enable researchers to develop and test predictive maintenance methods for the systems and components of future aircraft generations. Using targeted data analyses, failures of hydrogen components and systems could thus be predicted ahead of their failure in the physical system, allowing timely replacements before component failures affect aircraft operation. 

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Get in touch

Gerrit Rexhausen

Technology Scout

Lufthansa Technik AG | Hamburg, Germany


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