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white paper

Carbon neutral aviation by 2050

Using simulation and test to support the development of climate-neutral aircraft

Since the Industrial Revolution, industries have relied on the thermodynamic power provided by the oxidation of fossil fuels. This oxidation emits greenhouse gases. The present society needs to engage in sustainable industrial development practices, as the aeronautics industry is transitioning to achieve the target of climate-neutral operations by 2050.

Siemens Digital Industries Software was chosen to support the Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking, which will contribute to the development of simulation and testing that support sustainable aviation technologies.

Download this white paper to gain insight into a few of the challenges the aviation industry faces and the progress being made.

Accelerating green aviation

Accelerating green aviation requires innovation and that innovation is empowered by digital technology. The development of aeronautic hydrogen technologies goes far beyond the technology exploration that has been conducted up until now, with the goal of reaching commercial deployment in the next 20 years. It implies major changes impacting almost all the aeronautic engineering domains, like structures, systems, airworthiness, safety, operations, value chains, manufacturing, etc., generating unique and new aeronautic engineering challenges. It will require accelerating all the possible research and develop­ment (R&D) methods and tools to achieve industrial maturity quickly. Learn how Simcenter solutions help accelerate the transition to sustainable, climate-neutral aircraft.

Green aircraft design

Progress is being made with growing efforts toward green aircraft design. Due to mounting concerns about the aerospace industry’s impact on climate change, aviation companies are looking toward alternatives to fossil fuels to design green, or sustainable, aircraft. A few options to pursue include plant-based sustainable aviation fuels and electrification. A popular option has been hydrogen.

Hydrogen has a greater energy density than natural gas and gasoline and only produces water as a byproduct after combustion. However, there are numerous challenges in producing green hydrogen and designing hydrogen-fueled aircraft that must be overcome to allow widespread adoption of hydrogen as an aviation fuel.

Sustainable aviation fuels: a disruptive transition

The move to sustainable aviation fuels presents a disruptive transition in the industry. When facing novel applied technologies, like liquid hydrogen propulsion, simulation and testing must capture, measure and capitalize on all the relevant physical behavior (combustion, boil-off, flow regimes, buoyancy, material embrittlement, etc.). This requires knowledge of the underlying physics, formulation of new models, access to high-quality experimental results and expertise.

Accelerated develop­ment will demand even more efficient, combined and massive simulation computations, in addition to extensive testing capabilities. Therefore, a change such as the transition to sustainable aviation calls for ambitious initiatives in simulation and testing. A crucial tool in addressing these challenges will be the digital twin, which will aid in the design of next-generation hydrogen-powered aircraft and the green hydrogen producing facilities that power them.

Fuels with the best gravimetric and volumetric energy density are typically carbonated fuels with no noncar­bonated alternatives. The climate neutrality of these fuels must be assessed considering their production and CO2 compensation. Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) are following this option, using bio-sourcing and oil recycling to produce them, and adapting gas turbines and fuel systems to support them.

Novel structures and aerodynamics

Reaching the 2050 climate neutrality goal requires working in parallel on research and development (R&D) and reducing engineering time. This is where novel digital technologies combined with new methods and computing power could bring major benefits to the development of future climate-neutral aviation.

The adoption of hydrogen fuel (liquid or compressed) and the hybridization opportunities not only impact the propulsion system but also the complete aircraft structure. These opportunities include:

  • Hydrogen-powered aircraft integration

  • Blended wing body configurations

  • Dry wings configurations

  • Novel interactions with structures