Future airliners

From:         shevell@leland.stanford.edu (Richard Shevell)
Date:         30 Jun 95 03:47:21 
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It is presumptious to predict the long term future but anything foreseeable
does not include nuclear.  First, studies always have indicated that to
begin to look economically feasible, the airplane would have to be over
2,000,000 lb. of  gross weight.  We are a long way from that. More
importantly, the environmental problems are intractable as indicated by
Karl Swartz.

Liquid hydrogen is environmentally attractive as far as pollutants are
concerned but has no advantage as far as energy is concerned.  It takes
more fossil energy to produce hydrogen and liquify it than it does  to
power aircraft engines with fossil fuel. But, one might say, why produce
the hydrogen with fossil fuel: use nuclear power plants.  Clearly nuclear
power plants for electricity production are in serious trouble.
Furthermore, even if nuclear energy were to be environmentally accepted,
why not displace the ground fossil power plants first.  With the huge fuel
infrastructure required for liquid hydrogen powered aircraft, this use
would be the last to come into being.

For people who like to think about the infinite supply of hydrogen in the
oceans, I was impressed years ago by a physicist who urged me to think of
water as rusted hydrogen!

Richard S. Shevell, Prof. of Aeronautics, EM, Stanford University