Airbus is exploring the impact of superconducting materials and cryogenic temperatures on the performance of an aircraft’s electric propulsion systems.

The effort is under the company’s newly launched Advanced Superconducting and Cryogenic Experimental Powertrain Demonstrator (ASCEND), unveiled yesterday (29th March).

By introducing superconducting materials, Airbus hopes it can lower electrical resistance, meaning that electrical current can supply power without energy loss.

Coupled with liquid hydrogen at cryogenic temperatures, electrical systems can be cooled in order to significantly increase the performance of the overall electric propulsion system.

Through the ASCEND platform, Airbus now hopes to explore the feasibility of these technologies in order to optimise propulsion architecture ready for low- and zero-emission flight.

ASCEND will assess electric architectures from several hundred kilowatts to multi-megawatt applications with and without liquid hydrogen on board.

“Airbus will design and build the demonstrator over the next three years at its E-Aircraft System House,” the company said in a statement.

“Solutions that could be adapted to turboprop, turbofan and hybrid propeller engines will be tested and evaluated by the end of 2023. It will support Airbus’ decision making-process for the type of propulsion system architecture required for future aircraft.”

“ASCEND is also expected to support performance improvements on existing and future propulsion systems across the entire Airbus portfolio, including helicopters, eVTOLs, as well as regional and single-aisle aircraft.”

The demonstrator is hosted within Airbus UpNext, an Airbus subsidiary created to give future technologies a development fast-track by building demonstrators at speed and scale, evaluating, maturing and validating new products and services that encompass radical technological breakthroughs.