News of a durable and reliable eco-friendly aircraft is just one of the many impressive sustainable innovations to arise from the 21st century.
From a significant improvement in harvesting solar energy to storing emissions in seashells, if the past two decades have shown anything, it is an emergence of technological advancement and renowned design.
This hydrogen-based airplane is no different.
Backed by the United Kingdom and headed by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), the FlyZero concept is a part of a new line of zero-emission aircraft that the institute aims to bring to reality.
Their vision of the FlyZero is that it would be just as efficient and reliable as any other mid-sized aircraft, only it would have a far lower environmental footprint.
With the ability to seat up to 254 individuals and fly halfway around the world before needing to be refueled, this plane is no joke.
The aircraft would be powered by hydrogen, with four cryogenic fuel tanks throughout the body, two at the back, two toward the front, and a turbofan engine attached to each wing.
In a statement about ATI, Kwasi Kwarteng, a U.K. Business Secretary, said that the "designs could define the future of aerospace and aviation."
"By working with industry, we are showing that truly carbon-free flight could be possible, with hydrogen a frontrunner to replace conventional fossil fuels."
In addition, ATI estimates that "highly-efficient hydrogen-powered aircraft" will "have superior operating economics compared to conventional aircraft from the mid-2030s onwards."
The Future of Tomorrow
The increase in consumer demand has yielded an array of sustainable initiatives, particularly throughout the airline industry, from Hi Fly, the first to fly a plastic-free commercial flight, to prominent industry players such as Alaska Airlines tinkering with alternative fuels.
According to the International Council of Clean Transportation, commercial operations accounted for nearly 2.4% of global carbon emissions in 2018, or about 918 million tons. In addition, the ramifications from commercial flights can have a lasting effect on the environment far after they've touched down.
Traditional jets release emissions into the atmosphere, produce immense amounts of waste that end up in waterways and disrupt local ecosystems, emit noise pollution, and aid in bringing both waste and emissions to other places throughout the world.
On the flip side, tourism can be an amazingly advantageous industry for economies, small businesses, and international relations if done correctly. Taking low or zero-emission transportation to a destination, staying, and shopping locally can all result in bringing new money into the local economy, providing jobs, and helping a specific location thrive.
Even with the adverse outcomes that result from current transportation modes, such as flying, some economies still need and rely heavily on tourism to help supply their locals with jobs and an income.
With this taken into consideration, aiming to lessen the adverse environmental outcomes of the industry will only aid in its prosperity and ability to help cities and villages thrive.
What's the Deal With Hydrogen?
Hydrogen seems to be the new hot fuel as of late, with the name popping up in many places related to alternative energy. Some studies even claim hydrogen will be the preferred choice for future energy. But why is that? Is it really worth the hype?
The latter is an answer that can only be answered over time, with contiguous studies and monitoring of the fuel to determine its reliability and efficiency.
That said, the current knowledge of hydrogen fuel tells a great story.
For starters, hydrogen is versatile energy that can be sourced from many compounds and is relatively simple in concept when compared to other alternatives. However, it must be noted that hydrogen is an energy carrier and not an energy producer.
Hydrogen fuel production can occur naturally through organic compound breakdown or simulation, such as utilizing an electrolyzer to produce hydrogen from water molecules.
This fuel type boasts high efficiency, low to zero emissions, and even low noise pollution.
Currently, a considerable challenge that is holding hydrogen back from reaching its full potential is cost. Though, over time and with continued research and mainstream attention, this cost is expected to drop.
Regarding FlyZero, the team released a detailed webinar earlier this year to examine current stages, expected challenges, and mitigation techniques. They expect to have the jet completed by roughly the mid-2030s.
Considering that the expected commercialization date is nearly ten years off, there is plenty of time to improve the airline industry and alternative fuels in general. Just as the change in advancing technology shifted significantly from 2011 to today, we can expect a similar trend moving forward.
Regardless, ATI's concept thus far is rather remarkable. With due time, adequate funding, and backed research, we can expect great things to come from this project - one being a more powerful shift in the commercial airline industry toward an eco-friendlier future.