LZ 127 'Graf Zeppelin' airship, 1928-1937.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This German passenger airship was 776 feet long and 100 feet in diameter with a volume of 3,700,000 cubic feet. It employed a revolutionary new fuel system using special 'Blau gas' cells installed below the usual hydrogen-filled gas cells. Invented by Dr Hermann Blau, this gaseous fuel weighed about as much as air and therefore did not weigh the ship down as much as liquid fuel. Also, as the gas burned off, no weight was lost by its consumption and therefore no hydrogen needed to be released. The Graf Zeppelin, named after the original inventor of the airship, Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin (1838-1917), became famous in 1929 when, commanded by Hugo Eckener, it completed a global tour of the world in just 12 days with a full passenger load.