Honeywell launches plans to develop thermal management tech for hybrid-electric aircraft


Honeywell has launched plans to to develop advanced thermal management components and architectures for hybrid-electric aircraft as a critical enabler to reducing aircraft emissions.

Last week, the firm welcomed a consortium of companies to its international development centre in Brno, Czech Republic, for the launch. Clean Aviation Project TheMa4HERA, which stands for Thermal Management for Hybrid Electric Regional Aircraft, encompasses 24 partners, including universities, research centres, equipment manufacturers and aircraft manufacturers, across 10 European countries. 

Axel Krein, executive director of Clean Aviation, said: “Pivotal to achieving the transformation to net-zero aviation will be the development of disruptive solutions that brings momentous gains in aircraft energy efficiency coupled with low- or zero-carbon energy sources. The launch of TheMa4HERA will kick-start the necessary work to drive a step change in aircraft performance, supporting the delivery of EU Green Deal ambitions.”

Future hybrid aircraft will operate much differently than the sector has grown accustomed to during the jet age, according to Honeywell. It said thermal management will become more complex when aircraft manufacturers introduce fully-electric and hybrid aircraft with heat-generating fuel cells, batteries and power electronics. These aircraft will require more efficient and lightweight thermal management systems that will help manufacturers deliver on sustainability commitments.

Joeri De Ruytter, regional business development and partnerships lead, Honeywell Aerospace, said Project TheMa4HERA allows Honeywell to apply its more than 15 years of experience in leading collaboration on international research on programmes such as Clean Aviation and SESAR. 

“We have a long history in thermal management design and manufacturing that dates back to the 1940s. In addition, each partner on this project brings its expertise and passion for advancing sustainable aviation technologies. Combined with our expansive portfolio and long-standing relationships with OEMs, this research provides the opportunity for a unified solution on current and future aircraft,” said De Ruytter.

Honeywell project partners, such as Collins Aerospace, will work across research on thermal management architecture, air supply systems, air conditioning and system cooling, as well as testing and demonstration. Collins Aerospace subsidiary Nord Micro, based in Frankfurt, will work with Honeywell on cabin air distribution for the project.

“Collins’ Nord Micro business has decades of experience developing state-of-the-art cabin pressure controls and ventilation systems for commercial and military platforms,” said Ulrich Raab, general manager for Nord Micro. “Working together with Honeywell and the rest of the TheMa4HERA consortium, we will optimise the design of new cabin air solutions to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions on future aircraft.”

Meanwhile, Honeywell has also been selected to implement project Newborn to develop a new generation of hydrogen fuel cells for the industry.