Boeing Study sees LNG Fuelled Aircraft with Fuel Cell Aft Thrusters from 2040

22 Mar 2012

Boeing LNG Concept

Boeing has completed a concept study for NASA hypothesising what technologies could propel subsonic airliners entering service in the 2040s. The N+4 study sees liquefied natural gas (LNG) propelling Boeing’s Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research (SUGAR) concept plane from the previous 2030s N+3 study. Cryogenically stored LNG (purple tanks below) if burned in unducted fan engines reduces fuel burn (compared to today’s airliners) by 62%; ducted turbofans reduce burn by 57%.

Boeing LNG Tanks

The use of cryogenic LPG acts as an enabler for hybrid fuel cell propulsion, which in turn acts as an enabler for the use of liquid hydrogen fuel in later versions of the aircraft. In the N+4 example a solid oxide fuel cell fed with hot engine-core air would power a superconducting motor driving a 60 inch fan thruster in the aft nacelle. LNG is widely available, and although not a completely renewable fuel solution, offers lower fuel burn and emissions, as well as potential cost benefits; as such it is a suitable stepping stone to fully renewable aviation.

Reference: Aviation Week

Images: Boeing via NASA


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