Gallery: Hydrogen & Wind Powered Zeppelin Could Revolutionize Airship T...

Lower cost materials, like light thermoplastic foil could be used instead of a woven skin material.

Current designs for airships have numerous problems, including that they rely on helium, they’re expensive to build, are vulnerable due to their over-pressured skins and require expensive hangars to park them in. Standaert’s design for the Aeromodeller II would eliminate many of these problems. The zeppelin’s shape is modified to be longer and skinnier to reduce the need for pressurized skins. Lower cost materials, like light thermoplastic foil could be used instead of a woven skin material. The Aeromodeller II is also designed so it never needs to land, which eliminates the need for expensive hangars.

The zeppelin would move via hydrogen, which would be generated on board, so it never needs to stop at a refueling station. Using ground anchors, the airship’s propellers would switch gears to become turbines, harnessing the power of the wind to generate hydrogen. In this way, the zeppelin could remain aloft indefinitely by resupplying hydrogen whenever it needs to.

More like a sail boat than a power boat, the Aeromodeller II isn’t designed for speed and would probably only achieve about 80 km/h (50mph). This low speed transportation though would be completely zero-emissions and rely completely on renewable energy. Standaert is currently showing a model of his design in Antwerp, Belgium, until the end of February (find out more here).

+ Lieven Standaert

Via Low Tech Magazine via Spaceinvading


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  1. zeppflyer January 20, 2011 at 10:35 am

    One other thing: The ship would need to come to hover over water in order to generate hydrogen. Electrolysis takes in H2O and release H and O. This would mean that the ship would be altitude-limited when in hydrogen-generating mode as the weight of intake pipes would increase dramatically as you got further from the ground.

    Assuming, though, that the ship uses the hydrogen by running it through fuel cells, rather than by direct combustion, it could recover the water vapor that is the byproduct of an FC. This would, however, create a narrow window for operations as lift decreases and weight goes up.

    Overall, batteries are probably the better way to go for power storage as they maintain a constant weight, no matter what their charge.

  2. zeppflyer January 20, 2011 at 10:26 am

    A couple issues with this one.

    Pressure is not an issue with airships. Nonrigid blimps like the Goodyears operate at just barely over atmospheric pressure. Rigid airships (a la Hindenburg), which maintain their shape with a frame operate at the ambient pressure. You can riddle a proper Zeppelin with holes and it’ll just keep on flying.

    The use of helium is not something that most airship designers would choose since hydrogen is far cheaper and provides more lift. The use of He is dictated by law and public perception. A good compromise is a hydrogen envelope suspended inside a larger helium one. This allows the He to be used as insulation against flame and Oxygen (both of which Hydrogen needs to explode), while allowing the Hydrogen to be vented as ballast and used as fuel.

    The concept of wind turbines suspended from balloons is one that is receiving more (deserved) attention and the idea of one with at least limited self propulsion capability would be very useful to provide emergency power in disaster areas. One suggestion here would be that, while it is conceptually elegant, the use of the same propellers for both propulsion and generating may not be the best way to go as a rotor designed for the one will not be very efficient for the other. While it would add weight and complexity, it may be better to have separate propulsion and generating units which can be furled or retracted when not in use.

    Still and all, this is a much better design than most supposed airships that come up on Inhabitat.

    This design actually exacerbates the problem since a long, narrow envelope like that would require *more* pressure to maintain longitudinal rigidity.

  3. lazyreader January 20, 2011 at 7:52 am

    The Zeppelin’s slower than a damn train, that people also propose as a future of transport. Even a propeller driven plane is 3-6 times faster. A 747 can carry more people way faster. And the idea of going from a fast convenient form of travel to a slow inconvenient form of travel is just stupid.

  4. NoShootFoot January 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    This could be the future of the Jetson’s car.

    The idea of people on top of the blimp is a bad one though. How do you get there? Instead, cables could dangle from the blimp to be attached to an ultralight “car” below.

    This car could also be hydrogen powered, and the blimp could generate and store its fuel.

    As a safety factor and a way to reduce the size of the blimp, a tandem paraglider wing could be used in between the blimp and the car. The wing could provide lift in motion and be utilized as a parachute if the hydrogen were to catch fire. Just release cables to the front of the blimp first, so that it will fall behind the paraglider wing.

    Since hydrogen burns upward because it’s so light, only the falling fabric and cables will drop to the ground.

    A tandem ultra-light hybrid human powered car could carry two people on (and off) pavement. An external shell frame could provide protection and a hull for boat performance.

    Ultimately, this design could provide green transportation on land, water, and air – and generate and store power.

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