The transportation sector is responsible for around 25% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and about 3% of this total is associated with maritime transport of cargo. An international research team asserts that the reintroduction of airships for ferrying freight via the jet stream could contribute to lowering the sector’s carbon Hydrogen airship and balloon characteristics. Source: Julian David Hunt et al.Hydrogen airship and balloon characteristics. Source: Julian David Hunt et al.emissions and play a role in establishing a sustainable hydrogen based economy.

Airships could exploit the jet stream itself as a motive force to travel between destinations, resulting in reduced fuel consumption and emissions and shorter shipping times relative to current maritime shipping routes. Hydrogen in gaseous form could be carried inside the airship and unloaded at the final destination, leaving a volume sufficient to provide buoyancy for the return trip without cargo. The risk of hydrogen combustion can be addressed by automating the operation, loading and unloading of hydrogen airships and designating flightpaths that avoid cities.

Lower stratospheric temperatures of -50° C to -80° C encountered in the jet stream can serve to increase the efficiency of hydrogen liquefaction during airship descent. The energy required for the additional cooling needed can be generated using the onboard hydrogen.

Researchers from International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (Austria), Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (Malaysia), Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (Germany) and Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (Brazil) contributed to this study, which is published in Energy Conversion and Management.

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