California-based hydrogen fuel cell system developer HyPoint this week announced a partnership with Gloyer-Taylor Laboratories (GTL), to integrate the aerospace engineering research and development company’s advanced carbon-composite trademarked BHL Cryotank liquid hydrogen fuel tanks with HyPoint’s fuel cell system. BHL Cryotanks have demonstrated a 75 percent mass reduction compared with existing metal or composite aerospace cryotanks, allowing hydrogen aircraft and eVTOL makers to store as much as ten times more liquid hydrogen fuel without adding mass. As a result, aircraft can travel longer distances without refueling.
According to HyPoint's analysis of a De Havilland Canada Dash 8-300 regional airliner, which seats 50 to 56 passengers, the standard Pratt PW123B engine would typically support a range of 1,558 kilometers (847 nm). By implementing HyPoint’s system and a standard liquid hydrogen tank, the same aircraft could achieve five hours of flight time or a max range of 2,640 kilometers (1,427 nm), claimed Sergei Shubenkov, the company's co-founder and head of R&D. “With GTL’s tank, it could fly for 8.5 hours or a max range of 4,488 kilometers [2,425 nm), indicating that this aircraft could fly three times further with zero emissions by using HyPoint and GTL compared with conventional aviation fuel,” he stated.
HyPoint presented the Dash 8 analysis as a theoretical model for how the technology could be applied to an aviation application. Unlike rival companies like Universal Hydrogen and ZeroAvia, it is not proposing to convert the twin-turboprop aircraft as part of its business plan.
“Reducing weight is the most important factor for enabling longer-distance air travel with fewer stops to refuel,” said HyPoint founder and CEO Alex Ivanenko. “Our hydrogen fuel cell system offers better specific power performance compared with any alternative available today, opening the door to short-haul zero-emission hydrogen flight and urban air mobility."
HyPoint intends that the partnership announced with GTL on March 29 will go further by offering fixed-wing aircraft and eVTOL makers a liquid hydrogen tank that is stronger and lighter than anything else on the market, thereby significantly increasing fuel capacity. "By utilizing this new fuel tank technology, longer-haul aircraft may be able to utilize hydrogen for the first time while eVTOL makers can effectively multiply their flight range and operational time,” said Ivanenko.
GTL specializes in developing advanced composite prototypes and technologies for aerospace and has won numerous development contracts with NASA, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Air Force, and others. It's operation incorporates many polymer-composite manufacturing processes, including filament winding, hand layup, and fiber placement, to produce composite components.
The company has fabricated and tested multiple BHL Cryotanks at a range of scales and has shown them to remain leak-tight even after repeated cryo-thermal pressure cycles. The technology has achieved TRL 5+ and can work with a variety of cryogenic propellants including liquid oxygen, liquid methane, and liquid hydrogen.
The BHL Cryotank measures 2.4 meters long with a 1.2-meter diameter and weighs 12 kilograms (roughly 26 pounds). With the addition of a skirt and vacuum dewar shell, the total system weight is 67 kilograms.
The tank system can hold more than 150 kilograms of liquid hydrogen, giving it a hydrogen storage ratio of at least 50 percent (the weight of stored hydrogen fuel relative to total system weight), which GTL says is as much as 10 times greater than current state-of-the-art fuel tanks. An aircraft equipped with GTL dewar tank technology could achieve as much as four times the range of a conventional aircraft using aviation fuel, cutting aircraft operating costs by an estimated 50 percent on a dollar-per-passenger-mile basis, according to GTL, which is also working on applications for space rockets.
The inner tank and outer dewar shell are made from composite materials, developed to prevent leaks. The ultra-lightweight technology has been validated by NASA, DARPA, and some commercial customers.
GTL says its carbon-composite technology—similar to that used in racing bikes—adds strength and durability while significantly reducing weight. “With BHL Cryotanks, larger aircraft such as jumbo jets will be able to utilize hydrogen fuel for cross-country flights at least a decade earlier than expected,” said GTL president and CEO Paul Gloyer. “Similarly, eVTOL and drone makers can significantly extend their range and/or flight time, opening new markets and opportunities.”
Separately, HyPoint announced that former GE Aviation and Rolls-Royce engineering executive Umeed Ashtiani has joined the company to lead the company’s system engineering team and oversee the implementation of the tank technology.