Boeing revealed that three test flights of it's protoype hydrogen powered plane took place in February and March 2008 at the company's European research centre near Madrid.
This is thought to be the first manned plane to be powered by hydrogen fuel cells, converting it through a chemical reaction into electricity and water. The process creates no carbon pollution making it infinitely greener than conventional combustion engines.
Development time: five years
Speed: during test flights the plane flew at 60mph for 20 minutes.
Boeing sounded a note of caution warning that it is unlikely that hydrogen cells could generate enough energy to power large passenger planes. The prohibitive issue is storage. Hydrogen contains just a quarter of the energy as the same volume of jet fuel (kerosene), which means that planes could fly long distances only if they were filled with gas, rather than passengers or cargo. However, advocates of hydrogen airplanes argue that although hydrogen does indeed demand more onboard fuel storage space than kerosene, it also enjoys a huge aeronautical advantage - it contains three times as much energy per unit of weight as kerosene, and the weight saved in stored fuel can contribute to an increased passenger capacity. Therefore, hydrogen planes might in the future be larger than conventional passenger air liners, with increased fuel volume stored in a raised upper fuselage.
Because hydrogen is a compact and relatively light source of power the US military has been developing hydrogen-powered drones.
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