In summer 2005, a significant milestone in technology development for space exploration was achieved with the start of testing of a proton-exchange-membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) engineering model (EM) powerplant in the new state-of-the-art fuel cell test facility at the NASA Glenn Research Center. The PEMFC powerplant (see the following photograph) is the first high-fidelity 12-kW PEMFC hardware to be evaluated in a simulated launch environment for space applications. The facility, capable of testing various fuel cell types with power levels from 1 to 125 kW, brings new and unique capabilities to NASA for the evaluation of fuel cells and regenerative fuel cells for future missions.
12-kW PEMFC engineering model.
The PEMFC is an electrochemical power-generation device that converts hydrogen and oxygen reactants into electrical power, heat, and water. Because the hydrogen and oxygen can be shared with propulsion systems and the water can be shared with crew life-support systems, fuel cells are an attractive primary power source for human space missions. When fuel cells are coupled with an electrolyzer to form a regenerative fuel cell system, the technology becomes an attractive energy storage alternative to battery systems, especially for lunar missions where the day-night cycles are much longer than those in low Earth orbit.
The PEMFC EM successfully completed performance testing in three orthogonal orientations (see the final photograph). Following the completion of testing at Glenn, including mission profile simulation testing, the EM will undergo vibration and thermal vacuum testing at the NASA Johnson Space Center. At the conclusion of the test program, NASA will have demonstrated in a simulated space environment that the technology is ready to be considered for future missions.
PEMFC engineering model performance testing in three different orientations.
PEMFC EM development and testing is being performed in support of Constellation Advanced Development Projects. Glenn is part of a team of NASA centers (Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center) that has been developing PEM fuel cell powerplant technology for future space missions. The PEMFC EM was designed and built under contract by Teledyne Energy Systems, Inc.
Find out more about this research:
Glenns Electrochemistry Branch: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/Electrochemistry/
Exploration Systems at Glenn: http://exploration.grc.nasa.gov/
Nang T. Pham, 2164336165, Nang.T.Pham@nasa.gov; Mark A. Hoberecht, 2164335362, Mark.A.Hoberecht@nasa.gov; and Scott R. Graham, 2169777123, Scott.R.Graham@nasa.gov
Authors: Sally V. Harrington, Emily R. Groh, Mark A. Hoberecht, Nang T. Pham, and Scott R. Graham
Headquarters program office: Exploration Systems
Programs/Projects: Constellation Systems
Last updated: October 16, 2006
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