TU Ilmenau involved in major European project on environmentally friendly air transport

Making electrically and hybrid-powered aircraft environmentally friendly is the goal of the major European project HECATE

The Technische Universität Ilmenau is involved in a major European project that is making air transport fit for a sustainable and climate-neutral future. 37 partners from eleven countries are developing new technologies for hybrid aircraft of the future, i.e. foraircraft with combustion engines and electric motors.The task of the Electrical Apparatus and Switchgear Research Group at TU Ilmenau is to develop new types of switchgear for the innovative distribution of electrical energy in hybrid aircraft. The overall project is scheduled to run for three years and is being funded by the EU with around 34 million euros.

With the European Green Deal of 2019, the European Union aims to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases in the European Union to zero by 2050, making it the first continent in the world to become climate neutral. To achieve this, air traffic, which is said to be responsible for just under five percent of the global climate effect, must also become more environmentally friendly. For years, research and industry across Europe have been working on technological solutions to make more climate-friendly electric and hybrid flying a reality.

For short- and medium-haul flights in particular, electrically and hybrid-powered aircraft offer great potential for reducing environmentally harmful carbon dioxide emissions. However, since the electrical power in such aircraft of the future will increase from a few hundred kilowatts today to up to several megawatts, new types of electrical switchgear will be needed to meet the high power requirements of the new power grids. At the same time, these components should be light and compact and, last but not least, safe.

In the major European project HECATE ("Hybrid ElectriC regional Aircraft distribution Technologies")37 partners from eleven countries under the leadership of Collins Aerospace are developing technologies for electrical power distribution in hybrid aircraft. The individual partners have different work packages that, when brought together, strive for one goal: clean, environmentally friendly aviation.

TU Ilmenau is developing the technologies and components required for the new type of primary electrical energy distribution in the on-board grids. Scientists from the Electrical Apparatus and Switchgear Research Group, led by Prof. Frank Berger, are developing and testing two numerical simulation models for innovative DC switching and protection devices for hybrid aircraft: the first will map fundamental phenomena of plasma evolution in the prototypes of the new switchgear in order to optimize their switching characteristics. The second simulation model will ensure that in the event of a short circuit or accident, the high-voltage battery is automatically disconnected from the grid and there is no risk of electrocution.

Bogdan Barbu, who is in charge of the HECATE subproject at the Electrical Apparatus and Switchgear Research Group, describes the demanding characteristics of the novel components: "We will significantly optimize the switching behavior of our switchgear, and yet they will be small and lightweight. Since we are designing the prototypes for use under DC conditions, both the power supply and the power distribution in the hybrid aircraft will be safer under rated operating and short-circuit conditions."


Information on the Clean Aviation Program www.clean-aviation.eu and on the HECATE project www.hecate-project.eu

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Prof. Frank Berger
Head of
Electrical Apparatus and Switchgear Research Group
+49 3677 69-2834