The aerospace and defense industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by environmental sustainability, electrification, and operational efficiency, and the growing importance of technologies such as hydrogen and electric aircraft and advanced materials. In the last three years alone, there have been over 237,000 patents filed and granted in the aerospace and defense industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environmental sustainability in defense: H2 powered rocketsBuy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 206,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the aerospace and defense industry, there are 110 innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

H2 powered rockets is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Hydrogen (H2)-powered rockets refer to rockets that are powered by hydrogen gas as their fuel source. These rockets use electrochemical reactions, specifically electrolysis, to produce hydrogen gas, which is then used as a propellant in the rocket engines. The electrolysis process involves splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen gases using an electric current. The hydrogen gas produced is then stored and used as fuel to power the rocket engines, providing thrust for propulsion.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 450+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of H2 powered rockets.

Key players in H2 powered rockets – a disruptive innovation in the aerospace and defense industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators. 

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to H2 powered rockets

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Rolls-Royce 47 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 70 Unlock Company Profile
IHI 48 Unlock Company Profile
NACCO Materials Handling Group 102 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 94 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 443 Unlock Company Profile
State Grid Corporation of China 53 Unlock Company Profile
Cummins 51 Unlock Company Profile
Sungrow Power Supply 88 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 83 Unlock Company Profile
CEA 155 Unlock Company Profile
Nemaska Lithium 62 Unlock Company Profile
ThyssenKrupp 147 Unlock Company Profile
Evoqua Water Technologies 53 Unlock Company Profile
Koninklijke Philips 40 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 173 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 292 Unlock Company Profile
Kyocera 38 Unlock Company Profile
Asahi Kasei 160 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 54 Unlock Company Profile
Saudi Arabian Oil 38 Unlock Company Profile
ITM Power 46 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 47 Unlock Company Profile
RTX 47 Unlock Company Profile
ENEOS 40 Unlock Company Profile
Brunswick 44 Unlock Company Profile
FuelCell Energy 114 Unlock Company Profile
Osaka Gas 72 Unlock Company Profile
Calera 73 Unlock Company Profile
Dynacert 45 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 126 Unlock Company Profile
Tokuyama 43 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba 472 Unlock Company Profile
Electricite de France 103 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 37 Unlock Company Profile
Sunfire 109 Unlock Company Profile
AVL List 39 Unlock Company Profile
De Nora Permelec 151 Unlock Company Profile
Linde 98 Unlock Company Profile
Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies 36 Unlock Company Profile
Haldor Topsoe 333 Unlock Company Profile
Mcalister Technologies 174 Unlock Company Profile
Aquahydrex 61 Unlock Company Profile
Fuelsave 39 Unlock Company Profile
Huaneng Group Technology Innovation Center 37 Unlock Company Profile
Next Hydrogen 39 Unlock Company Profile
Engie 41 Unlock Company Profile
LanzaTech Global 45 Unlock Company Profile
The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission 308 Unlock Company Profile
Rondo Energy 39 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

ArianeGroup (formerly Airbus Safran Launchers), a 50:50 joint venture between Airbus and Safran, is one of the leading innovators in H2 powered rockets. Some of the patents filed by the company are related to a rocket propulsion system comprising two separate cryogenic tanks filled with hydrogen as the first propellant and oxygen as the second propellant, a combustion chamber connected with a hydrogen-oxygen supply system, and an energy conversion unit to charge the gas pressure accumulators in the ballistic phase. The energy conversion unit has at least one fuel cell configured to generate electrical energy, which is utilized in high-pressure electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen for use as propellants again.

ArianeGroup has more than 40 years of experience in hydrogen-based rocket propulsion. It was the prime contractor for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Ariane launch vehicles that used liquid hydrogen as the primary propulsion source. Hydrogen continues to be the main fuel for rocket engines since it has the lowest molecular weight but burns with extreme intensity when combined with an oxidizer such as liquid oxygen.

The aviation industry is seeking to leverage the lessons learned from liquid hydrogen-based rocket propulsion systems to develop future zero-emission aircraft. Airbus has engaged ArianeGroup to design, produce, and support the operations of a liquid hydrogen fueling system for its ZeroE fuel cell-powered demonstrator aircraft, while engineers from Airbus Defence and Space are working on optimized pressure vessel designs and rigorous safety standards in support of the development and industrialization of cryogenic tanks for liquid hydrogen storage.

Some other key innovators in this space include Raytheon Technologies (RTX), Rolls-Royce, and Japan Aerospace Exploration.

In terms of application diversity, Rondo Energy, Dynacert, and FuelCell are some of the leading innovators. By means of geographic reach, some of the leading patent filers include Aquahydrex, Evoqua, and Next Hydrogen.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the aerospace and defense industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Sustainability in Aerospace and Defense.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.