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Into the future with fuel cell-propelled aircraft
Boeing develops first full-flying alternative aeroplane

Chicago (pte044/13.05.2003/15:40) - Boeing is working on the first-ever aircraft to operate on fuel cells; December will see the first test-flight, writes the New Scientist (NS) . The prototype will be flown by a solo pilot with two 25kw fuel cells to power the propeller with electric energy; batteries will be needed to help with the required takeoff speed, however.

Judith Agar of Intelligent Energy says, "If there was ever a way to demonstrate that fuel cells are safe and usable, this is it," (NS). "But it's essentially a modified glider, so it could glide back to the ground if the propulsion fails," Agar concludes.

Many scientists/researchers believe that fuel cells are the future in aviation because the cells are a way of producing environmentally-friendly power: the chemical reaction is based on oxygen and hydrogen, and the only by-products are water and heat.

Lynntech, a US company, has already used fuel cells to fly aircraft, yet Craig Andrews from Lynntech says that it would be difficult to propel larger aircraft using the fuel technology available today. One of the problems is the storage of hydrogen: primary propulsion requires more hydrogen than it is possible to carry.

Boeing, however intends to use the new technology as a source of auxiliary-powered lighting, inflight entertainment and heating.

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