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Airbus research focuses on hydrogen

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus said it would focus on the research of its futuristic hydrogen-powered aircraft at its new research center in the Suzhou Industrial Park in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, which opened on Friday.

Airbus said the center would take advantage of the skilled aviation and hydrogen technologies in the Yangtze River Delta region, and gain from its proximity to the region's strong aeronautical and hydrogen supply chain.

The research will include manufacturing innovation, hydrogen infrastructure and cabin experience, such as introducing 5G technologies into the cabin. The center will also push forward the transformation and modernization of the aviation industry through digitalization and artificial intelligence.

Airbus aims to gather top talents and promote the development of the aerospace industry in the region. At the research center in Suzhou, Chinese employees account for the majority of the workforce, it said.

"Besides its promising aviation market, China offers advanced technological advantages in many fields. Airbus is working with partners, and China in particular, to nurture technologies, discover various resources, introduce alternative fuels, and develop the hydrogen ecosystem as we work toward sustainable aviation," said Sabine Klauke, chief technical officer of Airbus.

The opening of the new facility further indicates Airbus' long-term commitment to develop and invest in China, its largest market globally, after it signed agreements with Chinese partners in early April to expand the Airbus A320 Family final assembly capacity with a second assembly line in Tianjin.

Meanwhile, in early April, Airbus signed an agreement with China National Aviation Fuel Group to strengthen Chinese-European cooperation on the production of sustainable aviation fuels. The new agreement aims to optimize the SAF supply chain by diversifying sources and enhancing SAF production toward a goal of using 10 percent of SAF by 2030 globally, Airbus said.

SAF production doubled in 2022 and reached 300 million liters, according to the International Air Transport Association.

"Airbus is not a fuel producer, but we are working with our partners in the aviation, logistics and energy industries to support this development. However, even with 80 percent in emission reductions, flying will not be carbon-neutral. This is why, we are also working on new propulsion and aircraft models," Klauke said.

By 2035, Airbus aims to bring the world's first zero-emission commercial aircraft to the market. This is consistent with China's goal to peak its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, Airbus said.

"Air transportation is irreplaceable in contributing to domestic and international communications. Carbon emissions reduction in the civil aviation sector has been a long process and positive achievements have been gradually emerging," said Yu Zhanfu, a partner of consultancy Roland Berger.

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