World’s first hydrogen engine

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Hydrogen is an energy carrier of the future – engine researchers from Saxony-Anhalt are convinced of this. Within the Twenty20 consortium HYPOS, WTZ Roßlau is developing the world’s first hydrogen cycle engine.

“Nothing in the world is as powerful as an idea whose time has come”. In science, we know this quote from Victor Marie Hugo. Carsten Tietze and Manuel Cech are convinced that this is precisely the time for the hydrogen cycle engine. The two mechanical engineers research and develop efficient and environmentally friendly drive concepts at the Scientific and Technical Center for Engine and Machine Research in Dessau-Roßlau. Their generation will succeed in realizing an idea that was already on the minds of submarine designers at the beginning of the 20th century: How can an engine be powered by oxygen and hydrogen?

Later, in the 1990s, a major automaker pursued the idea of a hydrogen engine – but dropped it again. “The time was not yet ripe,” comments Manuel Cech. Because he himself is an enthusiastic tinkerer, he decided to join the WTZ in Roßlau in 2011 after studying mechanical engineering. There have been free spaces for exploratory thoughts here since 1960.

Green Lighthouse LocalHy

On the outside of the hydrogen cycle engine, petunias are happy about the condensation water running off.

Carsten Tietze is in charge of public research funding at WTZ. He, too, knows that the time has come for hydrogen as an energy carrier. That’s how he came across HYPOS. “Hydrogen Power Storage & Solutions East Germany” pursues the basic idea of converting non-storable energies from biomass, wind and solar energy into the storable energy carrier hydrogen. The initiative for the project comes from Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt. Central Germany has the country’s largest pipeline network of over 550 kilometers, which can be used for hydrogen transport.

The HYPOS project LocalHy, co-designed by the Roßlau engine researchers, is a beacon in this “green” research landscape. It deals with the development of an engine powered by this then abundant hydrogen. The single-cylinder test engine developed by the WTZ has so far successfully passed all test runs. The engine operates solely on hydrogen and oxygen. The people from Roßlau describe what a milestone this is with two words: “unique worldwide.

At present, the engine researchers are setting up a second test rig for a full engine. Here they want to show that an internal combustion engine can be converted into an emission- and nitrogen oxide-free engine using their technology.


Coupling to hydrogen storage

The engine is part of a complete system of decentralized water electrolysis. It is, as the project name LocalHy signals, first installed locally. The Roßlauer engine builders see future applications for the hydrogen cycle engine, for example, in households equipped with a photovoltaic system – and thanks to HYPOS’ research and development activities, with a hydrogen storage system. The motor uses this to supply the household with electricity when required.

Test stand fitter Tom Wilfert also has the idea of using the condensation water, the only waste product of the engine, to water flowers. This ingenious idea also comes at the right time in view of the climatic changes and droughts. Tom Wilfert’s petunias, at least, are thriving. An unmistakable sign of the purity of the water.