Zero-Emission: the Next-generation of Integrated Technology for Hydrogen storage (ZENITH)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


Commercial aviation contributes 2-3 % to global carbon emissions and the International Energy Agency has predicted that this will triple within the next three decades if no action is taken. In the UK the current contribution is 10% due to high levels of international traffic, and this could reach 40% by 2050 without action. The UK government has therefore set out an ambitious target to demonstrate a zero-carbon emission aircraft by 2030 within the UK Hydrogen and Net Zero Strategies.

The design and manufacture of aircraft has previously focused on incrementally improving structural efficiency and productivity of the semi-monocoque parts which make up the wing, fuselage and tail, with a degree of linkage between fuel tank boundaries and structural function. However, next-generation aircraft will require energy storage using fully integrated structures and materials whilst accounting for environmental impact.

GKN is the leading global Tier-one supplier of parts for most of the world's aircraft manufacturers. The University of Bath has world-leading expertise in the analysis, design and manufacture of composite parts, as well as in the creation of functional materials and their use for sustainable hydrogen energy. GKN and Bath have a track record of collaboration via a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair, eighteen joint PhDs and as formal partner in four EPSRC projects including an ongoing Programme Grant (CerTest, EP/S017038/1). Previous research has focussed in the areas of structural composites and manufacture, with most collaboration within Bath's Materials and Structures (MAST) Centre.

The ZENITH Prosperity Partnership arises from GKN's ambition to realise zero-emission aircraft in the 2030-40 timeframe and the University of Bath identifying sustainability as a priority research theme. It addresses fundamental challenges within the two major research themes of Hydrogen Storage and Sustainable Structures. It brings together a highly skilled, multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers from MAST, the Departments of Chemical Engineering (hydrogen storage, heat transfer), Chemistry (sustainable polymers, porous materials) and Mathematical Sciences (statistical modelling). It will exploit links with leading research institutes and centres at Bath, including the Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies (CSCT), the Institute for Advanced Propulsion Systems (IAAPS) and the planned UKRI Centre of Excellence for Hydrogen Research.

ZENITH will establish GKN and UK academia as world leaders in manufacture of parts for zero emission aircraft, positioning the UK at the forefront of this rapidly developing market.


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