Honeywell and WPI to study hydrogen storage and power generation for aviation

March 28, 2023
A new partnership between Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Honeywell Aerospace is aimed at helping the aviation industry reduce its carbon footprint.

WORCESTER, Mass., - A new partnership between Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts and Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix has been announced, with a stated goal of helping the aviation industry reduce its carbon footprint by examining how hydrogen fuel cells can help power the next generation of aircraft. This work focuses on hydrogen storage and power generation technology for all forms of air travel, including unmanned aerial vehicles, passenger and cargo travel. Honeywell is supplying hydrogen equipment and technology expertise, and has established a significant presence on WPI’s campus, with lab space in Goddard Hall and offices in Gateway Park.

Through this new collaborative, a group of roughly 25 Honeywell team members are working together with WPI experts and students under a multiyear contract to develop hydrogen storage and fuel cell technologies. Honeywell is currently using these technologies for unmanned aerial vehicles, and the Honeywell-WPI team is investigating hydrogen solutions for unmanned aerial vehicles, cargo drones, air taxis and even larger aircraft that could one day power commuter and regional flights without petroleum fuels. According to the International Energy Agency, in 2019, aviation accounted for 2.8% of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, but this percentage is projected to grow as other industries decarbonize and air travel continues to expand.

The collaboration allows WPI students to work with the Honeywell team in the same lab space. The agreement funds three Ph.D. students over several years and multiple undergraduate Major Qualifying Projects each year. Principle investigators include Andrew Teixeira and Anthony Dixon in Chemical Engineering, and Ronald Grimm and Shawn Burdette in Chemistry.

“The aviation industry has recognized an imperative to de-carbonize, which is extremely challenging in the weight and volume constrained environment of an aircraft. Hydrogen, along with Sustainable Aviation Fuels and aircraft electrification, represents a huge opportunity for the aerospace industry to meet the UN’s 2050 climate targets,” said Andrew Teixeira, assistant professor of Chemical Engineering, and project lead on the WPI team. “The collaboration with Honeywell will accelerate the process because the partnership permits WPI researchers to focus on the scientific bottlenecks, while Honeywell provides leading expertise on aerospace productization and certification. The combination of expertise that spans Technology Readiness from pure research all the way to shipping product, all in one location, enhances our ability to move and iterate fast, and make a real difference to the aviation industry.”

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