U of T Engineering researchers have partnered with Siemens Energy to tackle a key challenge in the energy sector: sustainable energy conversion for propulsion and power generation – such as developing gas turbine engines that can run on sustainable energy sources like hydrogen. Led by Professor Swetaprovo Chaudhuri (UTIAS), the initiative aims to rethink traditional gas turbine engines to reduce carbon emissions from both aviation and land-based fuel consumption.
Chaudhuri’s team is exploring hydrogen combustion as a viable option since it can be burned without producing carbon dioxide (CO2). However, there’s a significant hurdle in transitioning to this resource. Hydrogen is a small, highly reactive molecule, causing flames to move five to ten times faster than those of natural gas. This makes existing combustors and engines that run on natural gas incapable of handling pure hydrogen.
Another key challenge is the lack of infrastructure available to transport hydrogen in the same way pipelines are used to move natural gas. Until such infrastructure is developed, Chaudhuri’s team is researching how to build reliable fuel-flex gas turbine engines that can work on both fuels.