Will we have hydrogen-powered airplanes by 2035?

That is what Airbus announces, but by the year 2035 the President of Airbus who has made that announcement will no longer be in his position, and therefore no one will be able to blame him for anything.

I am not saying that it is not possible, but we are very far from that date and many things can happen along the way.

The aeronautical world is at a crossroads in finding a non-polluting fuel for its planes in order to get many of them back into the skies.

Electric motors can be an alternative for small planes and short-range flights, but for longer distances and more passengers they need to find an alternative fuel to current fuel, but that does not pollute.

Large airplanes weigh more than 200 tons and must be able to travel thousands of miles,

An alternative could be fuels of vegetable origin and another is hydrogen. Which one will end up being viable remains to be seen.

Hydrogen is a fairly explosive gas at room temperature and to take up less space it needs to be made liquid and its pressure greatly increased, so it needs to be stored and handled very carefully.

At present, much research is being done on the possibility of hydrogen being an alternative fuel for engines, and not just for producing electricity through a hydrogen cell.

It is a compound that has a lot of energy and when burned it does not produce carbon dioxide, but instead produces water vapor and nitrous oxide which are other types of pollution. And the UN has already warned of these possible polluting effects.

Airplanes carry fuel on their wings, but if they used hydrogen it would have to be transported at high pressure and a pressurized tank would not fit on the wings; so it should go in the fuselage and therefore force a redesign of current aircraft concepts.

How to store and distribute hydrogen is much more problematic than current fuel because a high pressure must be maintained throughout the process, and some have already launched into the race to define some hydrogen “cylinders” that could be transported relatively easily and placed on airplanes, facilitating recharging.

All changes generate opportunities and this one is not going to be any exception. Some companies will change and new ones will appear that contribute their creativity to solve some of the many problems that are raised.

Between now and 2035 many things can happen, but it is very clear that the aeronautical world must look for a new non-polluting fuel to be reborn again.

I am an electronic engineer with more than 40 years working in industry. I like to reflect on Technological and Social issues