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Rolls-Royce Successfully Tests World’s First Hydrogen-powered Jet Engine

Published: November 29, 2022
People walk past the Rolls Royce Inchinan factory on June 11, 2020 in Inchinnan, Scotland. Rolls-Royce has announced the successfully running a jet engine (Image: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

In a major step towards the goal of decarbonizing air travel, Britain’s Rolls-Royce announced on Tuesday that the company has successfully fired an aircraft engine using only hydrogen.

The test involved a converted Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A regional aircraft engine and used “green hydrogen” created by wind and tidal power, the company said according to Reuters. 

The company is seeking to prove that hydrogen can be used to safely and efficiently power civilian aero engines.

A second test is already in the planning stages with a longer-term ambition to carry out actual flight tests. 

If successful, the use of hydrogen could considerably assist the aviation industry in reaching its decarbonization goals since when hydrogen is burned the only byproduct is water. The industry as a whole has pledged to become “net-zero” by 2050.

Rolls-Royce is not the only company seeking to develop hydrogen powered aviation technology. Aerospace giant Airbus is working with French-U.S. engine maker CFM International to test hydrogen propulsion technology as well. 

The company said in February that it plans to fit a custom version of a current generation engine near the back of an A380 superjumbo test plane.


Despite the progress, Airbus told the European Union in 2021 that most airliners will continue to rely on traditional jet engines until at least 2050.

A switch to hydrogen would not only change how aircraft are manufactured but would also require major changes to infrastructure at airports.

According to Reuters, chief executive of SHZ Consulting, Eric Schulz, said in July that the changes in design in order for aircraft to burn hydrogen are so massive that it will take more than one generation of aircraft to get there.  

There are other competing technologies including electric engines which are currently only suitable for short flights and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

SAF is produced from sustainable feedstocks and is very similar in chemistry to traditional fossil jet fuel. Using SAF can result in a reduction in carbon emissions compared to traditional jet fuel, however it is currently only produced in miniscule levels. 

It’s theorized that SAF could be produced by combining carbon captured from the air with “green hydrogen” however the process is energy intensive and is not yet available on a large scale.