Horizon Europe (2021 - 2027)

Development and Optimisation of a Dedicated Fuel Cells for Aviation: Disruptive Next-gen High Temperature Fuel Cells Technology for Future Aviation

Last update: Jan 13, 2023 Last update: 13 Jan, 2023


Location: EU 27 EU 27
Contracting Authority Type: Development Institution
Status: Awarded
Budget: EUR 5,000,000
Award ceiling: N/A
Award floor: N/A
Sector: Energy, Science & Innovation, Air & Aviation
Eligible applicants: Unrestricted / Unspecified
Eligible nationalities: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, A ... See more Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Angola, Anguilla, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Austria, Azerbaijan, Azores, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Caribbean Netherlands, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Dem. Rep. Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Commonwealth of, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Eswatini (Swaziland), Ethiopia, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, French Polynesia, French Southern Territory, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, North Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan, Palau, Palestine / West Bank & Gaza, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Pitcairn, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Helena, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Wallis and Futuna, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Date posted: 01 Mar, 2022

Attachments 1

See more
See less


Call Updates

Aug 31, 2022 3:52:39 PM


An overview of the evaluation results (flash call info) is now available under the "Topic conditions and documents" section on the topic page.

Jun 1, 2022 9:41:15 AM


Call HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2022-1 has closed on the 31 May 2022 17:00:00 Brussels time.

79 proposals have been submitted.                                                                                                        

The breakdown per topic is:


  • HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2022 -03-08: 2 proposals

Evaluation results are expected to be communicated at the end of August 2022.

Mar 31, 2022 10:16:55 AM

The submission session is now available for: HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2022-03-08(HORIZON-JU-RIA)

Development and optimisation of a dedicated Fuel Cells for Aviation: disruptive next-gen high temperature Fuel Cells technology for future aviation


Programme: Horizon Europe Framework Programme (HORIZON)
Type of action: HORIZON-JU-RIA HORIZON JU Research and Innovation Actions
Type of MGA: HORIZON Action Grant Budget-Based [HORIZON-AG]
Deadline model: single-stage
Planned opening date: 31 March 2022
Deadline date: 31 May 2022 17:00:00 Brussels time

Topic description

The use of Fuel Cells enables the generation of electricity aboard the aircraft from hydrogen (stored in a dedicated tank) and oxygen (air) without any CO2, NOx, particles emission as the only by-products of the reaction are water and heat. Therefore, these technologies have the potential to strongly reduce aviation emissions & pave the way to climate neutrality. Additionally, they can drastically reduce the noise when compared to gas turbines, both when aircraft is moving (flight/taxi) and on ground/stopped (while operating non propulsive energy systems).

Depending on the power delivered, fuel cells can supply either non-propulsive systems (e.g electrical anti-ice systems, electrical Environmental Control System, Green Taxiing, etc) or propulsive systems (electrical engines and propeller).

Experience shows that aviation constraints (such as weight, altitude etc) will require specific technologies in order to meet the necessary KPIs.

Project results are expected to contribute to the following expected outcomes:

  • The maturation of necessary Low TRL new generation of fuel cell technology, operating higher than 120°C (constant operation) to unlock thermal management issues for high power systems;
  • Demonstration of the developed technology in lab test conditions (single cell or short stack).

At the end of the project, performed lab tests will have proven concept feasibility. The technologies will then be further matured in Clean Aviation Programme, embedded and integrated in a specified architecture for demonstrations.

Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following objectives of the Clean Hydrogen JU SRIA:

  • FC module durability [h]: 20.000 in 2024 and 30.000 in 2030;
  • FC system efficiency [%]: 45 in 2024 and 50 in 2030;
  • FC system availability [%]: 95 in 2024 and 98 in 2030.

In addition to the KPIs above and when considering a system size of 1.5MW the proposal should also contribute to the achievement of the following:

  • Fuel cell Gravimetric index @system level > 1.5 kW/kg nominal power, under nominal aviation environmental conditions. Note: For computation, the following “system” definition is proposed: Fuel Cell stack + Anode & Cathode BoP (incl. by-products management) + Thermal Management BoP (excl. Heat exchanger);
  • Fuel cell Gravimetric Index @stack level > 3 kW/kg in nominal power (and not peak power);
  • Power density @ Membrane Electrode Assembly > 1.25 W/cm2;
  • Ageing kinetics (= performances degradation in time) is understood;
  • Environmental conditions: temperature, pressure, vibration and other area of interest (Ie DO 160) compatible with aircraft environment.

The technology (Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell) that is emerging from the automotive industry through car manufacturers is of interest for aeronautic industry, but some issues are still to be solved (hydrogen storage and distribution from the tank to the fuel cell system are not considered here):

  • Aviation needs are in the range of 1 to 5MW depending on the size of the aircraft and/or the systems to supply with power (propulsive or non-propulsive). This target is clearly defined in the Clean Aviation SRIA[1]. Such power level requires capability to dissipate almost the same power of heat, in a dedicated thermal management system;
  • Current fuel cell technologies developed by automotive industry operate lower than 100°C at constant operation, which means that fuel cell thermal management system will have to evacuate a large amount of power with a low-grade heat due to FC low temperature;
  • Thermal management and especially heat dissipation using a low-grade heat have a massive impact on aircraft performance: aircraft drag increase implies to boost aircraft propulsive system sizing (leading to manage more heat) and requires more energy for the same mission (leading to take on more fuel, and therefore to boost aircraft propulsive system);
  • Fuel cell operating temperature increase (120°C +) would significantly help to reduce thermal management effect on aircraft flight performances, and unlock fuel cells applications for high power generation systems;
  • Current developed High Temperature PEM-FC technologies (Phosphoric acid doped PBI-based MEAs for instance) are not at the expected level of performance for aeronautic target.

Proposals should target a disruptive 120°C+ constant operating temperature fuel cell technology with the same performances as current state-of-the-art low Temperature PEM technologies.

The integration of such a new fuel cell technology into an aircraft fuel cell system needs to be considered and anticipated but is not the scope of this topic.

Proposals should address the following aspects:

Requirements & specification

  • Early in the project, define a projected fuel cell stack using this disruptive fuel cell technology compatible with aircraft environment and constraints (safety, durability, availability, temperature, pressure);
  • Define disruptive MEA of this technology specification. Disruptive MEA requirement and a high-level MEA architecture should be defined and agreed early in the project;
  • Derive necessary technological bricks to be matured up to TRL 4.

MEA architecture, global consistency and performance

  • Define a global MEA architecture by considering the interactions between all the components, layers and interfaces of a MEA: previous development of a disruptive MEA for automotive applications highlighted the need to take into account the global architecture of this component. High performance materials assembly do not meet the expected characteristics (performance, durability) of each component of a MEA taken individually. The overall architecture definition is the key for the development of an efficient MEA;
  • Increase the kinetics of the Oxygen Reduction Reaction (ORR), main limiting reaction for PEM MEA;
  • Design and develop an efficient electrolyte-catalyst interface to optimise the electrochemical active area;
  • Design and optimise the Gas Diffusion Layer (GDL), Micro Porous Layer (MPL) and electrode interfaces to facilitate reactants and products management and ensure good electrical properties;
  • Eco-design of the MEA has to be taken into account.

Proton or anion electrolyte technology

  • Design a fuel cell technology working at 120°C+ (constant operation);
  • Design an electrolyte technology with high proton or anion conductivity and no electrical conductivity;
  • Define an electrolyte technology with low gas permeability;


  • Design electrodes working at 120°C+ (constant operation);
  • Design and optimise a cathode to improve ORR kinetics;
  • Define and optimise the catalyst loading for Hydrogen Oxidation Reaction (HOR);
  • Optimise catalysts support to improve electrochemical active area on both electrodes.

Gas diffusion layer

  • Design GDL working at 120°C+ (constant operation);
  • Design and optimise GDL composition and structure to efficiently transport and evacuate reactants from the bipolar plate channels to the electrodes, especially on cathode side where the oxygen transport to the catalysts has a major impact on performances at high current densities;
  • Optimise electrical conductivity of GDL;
  • Design and optimise GDL with an efficient water management at 120°C+.

In addition, great care should be taken to strength, durability of the MEA, and transient start-up / shut down mode. In particular proposals should address the following:

MEA strength

  • Design a MEA able to work with different pressures between anode and cathode;
  • Design a MEA with high mechanical resistance.

MEA Durability

  • Design a MEA with a durability > 20,000 h.

Start and stop operations

  • Design a MEA able to undergo start and stop operations with limited degradation rate;
  • Define a MEA able to start at cold temperature.

Proposals may include activity for the test bed development for FC testing, and the development of relevant test protocols for performance, lifetime assessment and operating environment profiles.

Activities developing test protocols and procedures for the performance and durability assessment of electrolysers and fuel cell components proposals should foresee a collaboration mechanism with JRC (see section "Collaboration with JRC"), in order to support EU-wide harmonisation. Test activities should adopt the already published EU harmonised testing protocols[2] to benchmark performance and quantify progress at programme level.

Activities are expected to start at TRL 2 and achieve TRL 4 by the end of the project.

The conditions related to this topic are provided in the chapter of the Clean Hydrogen JU 2022 Annual Work Plan and in the General Annexes to the Horizon Europe Work Programme 2021–2022 which apply mutatis mutandis.



Call Updates

Aug 31, 2022 3:52:39 PM


An overview of the evaluation results (flash call info) is now available under the "Topic conditions and documents" section on the topic page.

Jun 1, 2022 9...

Want to unlock full information?
Member-only information. Become a member to access this information. Procurement notices from over 100 donors and banks are available here