World’s 1st hydrogen-powered jet engine seeks turning point for aviation industry

A Rolls-Royce engine seen during an airshow. JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Aerospace manufacturer Rolls-Royce said Monday it had successfully tested and run the world’s first hydrogen-powered aircraft engine.

The first-of-its-kind engine could prove a significant milestone in the development of eco-friendly fuel for the aviation industry.

In a press release, Rolls-Royce said it had tested an early concept engine using hydrogen from wind and tidal power. The test was performed in collaboration with British low-cost air carrier easyJet, and officials said the hydrogen engine was a “key proof point” in the decarbonization strategies of both companies.

A second round of tests on the engine is currently being planned.

“[Rolls-Royce and easyJet] have set out to prove that hydrogen can safely and efficiently deliver power for civil aero engines and are already planning a second set of tests, with a longer-term ambition to carry out flight tests,” the press release added.

While Rolls-Royce is best known for its luxury cars, the company’s aerospace division has become an industry leader in aircraft engines. Rolls-Royce engines can be found on numerous models of Boeing and Airbus airplanes, and according to the company, have logged more than 100 million flying hours.

Their new hydrogen engine is part of a push by the aviation industry to help the world have net zero emissions by 2050. Other clean energy technologies are also being developed by Rolls-Royce, Reuters reported, including electric engines that can power shorter flights.

Despite this advancement in hydrogen, however, Rolls-Royce has said most airliners will continue to rely on traditional engines until the 2050s, per Reuters. 

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