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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Boeing flies first hydrogen-powered plane

A small propeller aircraft powered by a hydrogen fuel cell was flown earlier this year by US aircraft maker Boeing.

The plane flew at a speed of 100 kilometres (62 miles) an hour for about 20 minutes at an altitude of about 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) using only the hydrogen battery for power, Boeing said in a statement.

Hydrogen power uses of chemical "fuel cells" that can tap the energy produced from the chemical transformation of hydrogen and oxygen into water.

It holds the promise of a cleaner and renewable energy resource as it produces only harmless water vapor.

Hydrogen cell batteries are beginning to be used in some cars but are still very expensive.Several auto makers, including General Motors, Nissan and BMW, are working on the development of hydrogen-powered cars.

Also in the wake of environmental challenge, an Airbus test plane made the first biofuel flight in February, powered by organic plant matter, and this was followed by a Virgin Atlantic-Boeing experiment using babassu oil and coconut oil.

Although hydrogen fuel cells could be used to power small planes Boeing did not believe they could become the primary power source for large passenger planes. Virgin Atlantic flew a Boeing 747 from London to Amsterdam in February with one engine powered by biofuel.

Growing algae commercially with sewage works is expected to be the next biofuel tested by Virgin Atlantic.

Boeing has also comes out with a new model place, the Dreamliner which uses high-tech composites to reduce its weight and will consume 20 percent less fuel then similar-sized existing planes.

US-based carrier, Continental Airlines looks forward to become the first biofuel plane operator next year.
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