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UCL Mechanical Engineering
Faculty of Engineering Sciences


Hydrogen fuel technologies for propulsion and power (HOPE)

About the project

Project title:
Hydrogen fuel technologies for propulsion and power (HOPE)

Funded by:
UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships (FLF)

Project team:
Project lead (PI): Dr. Midhat Talibi 
Post-doctoral research associate (PDRA): to be hired
PhD student (experimental focus): to be hired
PhD student (computational focus): to be hired

Current and future energy policies are increasingly aiming to reduce carbon emissions from the propulsion and power sector. The combustion of fossil fuels releases carbon, in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), and there is consensus that the rapid anthropogenic emission of fossil bound carbon is resulting in global climate change. Concurrently, there is growing awareness of the negative impacts of toxic exhaust pollutants from fossil fuel combustion, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbonaceous soot or particulate matter (PM), on the health of urban populations. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind have great potential, but their intermittent and fluctuating nature makes utilisation difficult.

Hydrogen (H2) has the potential of emerging as the leading energy carrier for the next generation of zero-carbon emission combustion systems. Hfueled combustion systems are potentially capable of providing very efficient energy conversion with no carbon emissions, and will be able to span the power and weight requirements of land-based power generation and aero-propulsion.

Further reading:
Interview with Dr Midhat Talibi
News Release

Gas turbines are viewed as essential components of the future energy mix, meeting about 80% of the global power generation and almost all aero-propulsion energy requirements. Even though existing gas turbines offer considerable fuel flexibility, operation with 100% H2 is still a challenging frontier, due to the characteristics of H2 as a fuel in gas turbine combustors.

H2 can offer significant benefits over hydrocarbon fuels. Its wide flammability range allows very lean combustion, low ignition energy ensures prompt ignition, and high diffusivity facilitates efficient air-fuel mixing. However, the use of H2 for combustion is hindered by considerable challenges. Its high flame speed can intensify risks of flame instability and flashback, adversely affecting operation, and high rates of heat release (leading to high thermal loading), combined with H2‘s corrosive properties, can lead to combustor damage.

Certainly, gas turbine current combustors are not suitable for operation with 100% H2 and require major re-design efforts to align gas turbine technology with the global decarbonisation strategy, which is the focus of this project.

Overarching aim

Provision of new design and operation principles for H2 combustors to de-risk the utilisation of H2 in gas turbines and enable development of H2-powered technologies for power and propulsion applications.

This will be achieved through the following objectives:

  1. Identify suitable burner design for efficient H2 and air mixing with the aim of establishing a combustion zone with a homogeneous low temperature profile in order to mitigate NOx formation.
  2. Develop an advanced combustion concept that allows flame stabilisation with reduced risk of flashback through optimised H2-air injection strategy which stabilises the flame within the combustor thereby preventing it from travelling upstream of the combustion plane (flashback).
  3. Characterise the thermoacoustic response of the proposed H2 burner configuration to inform effective combustion instability suppression strategies.
  4. Understand the effect of scaling combustor size on key combustion and emission parameters.
  5. Develop a high fidelity spatially and temporally resolved experimental database to advance industrial modelling schemes for H2 combustion.
  6. Implement H2 combustion technology in semi-industrial systems to understand influence of higher ambient pressure and temperature conditions.
  7. Explore routes of integrating H2 combustion in full-scale power generation and aero-propulsion systems, and investigate effects of fuel flexibility as well as influence of H2 on upstream and downstream gas turbine components.
  8. Identify potential routes for translation of research outcomes towards other industrial applications, for example, domestic and industrial heating.

HOPE is an integrated and challenging programme covering aspects of combustion, fluid mechanics and materials science. Fundamental principles associated with H2 combustion will be developed through rigorous laboratory scale testing, and then implemented in two different semi-industrial scale combustion systems, (i) gas turbines for power generation, and (ii) rocket engine burner technology.


UCL Mechanical Engineering, Roberts Engineering Building, University College London, Torrington Place, London, WC1E 7JE, UK
+44 (0) 20 3108 5302
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