New hydrogen tank for aeronautical research

L-R: Roland Gerhards, CEO ZAL GmbH, Michael Westhagemann, Wirtschaftssenator von Hamburg, Nicole Dreyer-Langlet, Vice President Research & Technology Airbus, Dr. Christoph de Beer, Leiter politische Beziehungen LHT, Dr. Thomas Zill, Institut für Systemarchitekturen in der Luftfahrt und stellvertretender Institutsleiter, DLR, und Nawina Walker, Head of Operational Site Management Airbus, aufgenommen am 04.08.2021 vor dem neuen Wasserstofftank am ZAL Zentrum für Angewandte Luftfahrtforschung in Hamburg. Foto: Daniel Reinhardt/ZAL





The vision of emission-free flying is becoming a bit more of a reality in Hamburg. The ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research has expanded its hydrogen infrastructure with a 20-metre-high, 100 m³ tank. The tank, provided by the company Air Products who will also supply the needed gaseous hydrogen, suddenly increases the capacities available at the research center twenty-fold. Together with Michael Westhagemann, Hamburg’s Senator for Economics and Innovation, the new infrastructure was officially inaugurated today, Wednesday.
The ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research offers more than 30 partners, including Airbus, DLR, Lufthansa Technik, and ZAL GmbH, extensive facilities for their research into the air transport industry of the future. One thing they all agree on is that hydrogen plays a key role in terms of climate neutrality.

 The background of the event could not be more topical. The aviation industry currently faces major challenges: On the one hand, it needs to survive the crisis brought about by the pandemic, while on the other hand – and at the same time – it must strive to make the future of flying emission free in order to save the planet. The scientific and technical steps needed for this are being developed at the ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research.

Fuel Cell Lab at ZAL: 3.7 million euros invested since 2015

ZAL is a member of the Hamburg Aviation cluster and has been active in the field of hydrogen since 2009. ZAL GmbH operates the Fuel Cell Lab, rents out fuel cell laboratories, and offers consulting, development, and testing services in the field of fuel cell technology. The Fuel Cell Lab is a cross-sector research laboratory, both for aviation and other mobility applications. A total of approx. 3.7 million euros has been invested in the lab infrastructure since 2015. The 20-metre-high hydrogen tank from the company Air Products, which has now been put into operation, expands the possible test capacities on site by a factor of twenty. The 100 cubic meter storage tank keeps around 400 kilograms of hydrogen on site. The hydrogen is delivered from the Air Products plant in Stade, 30 km away.

Wasserstofftank des ZAL Zentrum für Angewandte Luftfahrtforschung, aufgenommen am 04.08.2021in Hamburg. Foto: Daniel Reinhardt/ZAL

ZAL’s focus is on the integration of fuel cell technologies. To achieve this, a total of 11 laboratories for fuel cell technology research are available

  • Development of fuel cell technologies
  • Design of hydrogen infrastructures
  • Secure supply of hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen from pressure vessels
  • Provision of compressed air; air extraction system for up to 1,800 m³/h per test stand as well as cooling water supply up to 540 kWtherm
  • Environmentally friendly energy recovery into the Hamburg grid up to 200 kWel
  • Hangars for test stands capable of accommodating complete aircraft segments


Michael Westhagemann, Hamburg’s Senator for Economics and Innovation: “Hydrogen is the future. And the inauguration of the new tank architecture at ZAL is one of the pillars we need in the transformation towards green flying. The new hydrogen storage tank shows that Hamburg as an aviation center is moving towards sustainability and zero emissions by investing in concrete projects and measures.”

Roland Gerhards, CEO ZAL GmbH: “Hydrogen as an energy carrier is the central key technology when it comes to making aviation more sustainable. The idea of utilizing regenerative hydrogen has been around for decades, but it is only the combination of today’s technologies and the public demand for greater sustainability that is enabling the transformation of air transport. I am proud that as a research topic hydrogen already has a long history at ZAL, and that we are driving the development of this important technology with our facilities and the new H2 tank at the ZAL TechCenter.”

Dr. André Walter, Chairman of the Board of Management of Airbus Commercial in Germany and head of the Hamburg site: “Hydrogen technology plays a key role for Airbus as is illustrated by our  ZEROe concept aircraft, for example. However, the future utilization of this forward-looking energy source in commercial aviation is a team effort and can only succeed if we work together. We are therefore very pleased that the Hamburg region is taking the lead here in close cooperation between the political, scientific, and economic spheres. ZAL and its research infrastructure are an indispensable platform for developing the necessary technologies. We look forward to expanding this cooperation.”

Dr. Björn Nagel, Founding Director DLR Institute of System Architectures in Aeronautics: “The ZAL partnership network and the infrastructures provided offer an ideal environment for researching revolutionary technologies such as hydrogen-powered engines for climate-neutral flying. Experiments on real aircraft components and digital mapping methods go hand in hand. This will jointly optimize the design and manufacture of future aircraft. In a next step, we are looking forward to also designing and testing the ground and maintenance processes for hydrogen aircraft not only digitally but, in collaboration with Lufthansa Technik and ZAL GmbH, also on a converted A320 stationary demonstrator at Hamburg Airport.”

David Doyle, Vice President Corporate Strategy, Business Development and Innovation Management at Lufthansa Technik: “Lufthansa Technik is a founding member, shareholder and therefore a part of ZAL. We are excited about the expansion of the hydrogen infrastructure, which will enable the development of pre-competitive technology expertise,” explains David Doyle, Vice President Corporate Strategy, Business Development and Innovation Management at Lufthansa Technik. “Together with our new field laboratory for ground and maintenance processes in aviation, we will then have outstanding opportunities to take research into hydrogen as a future source of energy for aviation to a new level.

ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research

The ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research in Hamburg is one of the most modern research facilities for civil aviation worldwide. Over an area of 26,000 square meters, the research center offers 600 personnel state-of-the-art facilities for joint research and development activities. Following the concept of ‘Open Innovation’, about 30 partner institutions from industry and science collaborate here on the innovations of tomorrow. ZAL GmbH works in this unique environment with around 30 scientists and engineers. Both in partnership and on their own research projects, these aeronautics experts drive technological trends such as robotics, 3D printing, cabin networks, and fuel cells.


Airbus pioneers sustainable aerospace for a safe and united world. The Company constantly innovates to provide efficient and technologically advanced solutions in aerospace, defence, and connected services. In commercial aircraft, Airbus offers modern and fuel-efficient airliners and associated services. Airbus is also a European leader in defence and security and one of the world’s leading space businesses. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions and services worldwide.

German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt – DLR)

DLR is the Federal Republic of Germany’s research center for aeronautics and space. We conduct research and development activities in the fields of aeronautics, space, energy, transport, security, and digitalization. The DLR Space Administration plans and implements the national space program on behalf of the federal government. Two DLR project management agencies oversee funding programs and support knowledge transfer. Climate, mobility, and technology are changing globally. DLR uses the expertise of its 55 research institutes and facilities to develop solutions to these challenges. Our 10,000 employees share a mission – to explore Earth and space and develop technologies for a sustainable future. In doing so, DLR contributes to strengthening Germany’s position as a prime location for research and industry.

Lufthansa Technik

With some 35 subsidiaries and affiliates, the Lufthansa Technik Group is one of the leading providers of aircraft technical services in the world. Certified internationally as a maintenance, manufacturing, and design organization, the company has a workforce of more than 22,000 employees. Lufthansa Technik’s portfolio covers the entire range of services for commercial, VIP, and special mission aircraft. This includes maintenance, repair, overhaul, and modification of engines, components, and landing gear, as well as the manufacture of innovative cabin products and digital fleet support.


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