March 14, 2024 | University Partners

University of Derby ground-breaking work on hydrogen storage receives national recognition

A project that could help accelerate the UK aerospace industry’s zero emissions capabilities has won a High Commendation at this year’s Hydrogen Awards.

The Awards recognise enterprise, innovation and excellence in bringing the use of hydrogen to all sectors and industries and to the public.

The High Commendation in the category of UK Universities’ Award for Excellence in Hydrogen Research and Innovation went to the University of Derby’s Dr Stefano Valvano, Associate Professor in Integrated Computational Materials Engineering, and his team for their work on the AETHER project (Advanced Solutions for Hydrogen Zero Emission Fuel), funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute.

Working collaboratively with industry partners, and under the supervision of Professor Angelo Maligno, the project is developing innovative, high-performance liquid hydrogen tanks that meet the aviation industry’s safety requirements for storage and transportation.

Dr Valvano has been developing advanced multi-physics computational models for the analysis and design of hydrogen tanks. These computational models are key to understanding how tank structures are likely to perform and to predict failure.

For use in aircraft, hydrogen needs to be stored as a liquid, at low pressure and very low (cryogenic) temperatures. Developing suitable materials for storage presents a challenge as most materials become very brittle at cryogenic temperatures. The project has led to the introduction of composite polymer-based materials and metal matrix composite liners combined with an insulant foam selected and developed for cryogenic applications.

The work being carried out by the team is providing a critical contribution towards efforts to reduce emissions and achieve net zero by 2050. The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) has committed to limit CO2 to 50% of 2005 levels by 2050, requiring radical approaches, including up-scaling Sustainable-Aviation-Fuel (SAF) (synthetic hydrocarbon) and hydrogen propulsion. In September 2020, Airbus revealed plans for hydrogen-powered zero-emission aircraft to meet UK and international commitments to achieve Net-Zero by 2050.

Dr Valvano said:

“We are delighted to receive this award which recognises our contribution to the development of zero-emission aircraft. Projects like AETHER have the potential to accelerate the UK’s capability in tank development and manufacture, securing UK supply chains for propulsion, structures and aircraft handling systems and making the UK a centre of excellence within Europe.”

AETHER is one of a number of research projects carried out at the University of Derby’s Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering (IISE) which partners with businesses across various sectors to find sustainable engineering solutions.

Dr Paul Wood, Director of the Institute of Innovation in Sustainable Engineering (IISE) at the University of Derby, said:

“Receiving a high commendation in the UK Universities’ Award for excellence in hydrogen research and innovation is a great achievement – congratulations to Dr Valvano and the team. The safe storage of hydrogen fuel in transport vehicles continues to present challenges and this research in partnership with the UK supply chain takes a major step forward in developing viable solutions.”