Fuel Cell Test Laboratory at Glenn.
A new, state-of-the-art fuel cell test and evaluation facility came online in 2005 (see the photograph). This unique NASA facility was designed from its inception to safely and efficiently evaluate fuel cells, electrolyzers, ancillary components, fuel cell subsystems, and powerplants. The facility can enable long-term, uninterrupted testing of components and systems under a variety of test conditions and mission power profiles. Robustness of system design, component degradation modes, failure characteristics, operational sensitivity, and life can be evaluated.
The facility comprises three separate test cells. Each test cell is currently configured to evaluate hydrogen/air or hydrogen/oxygen fuel cell systems up to a power rating of 25†kW and has been designed to safely operate entirely independent of the others. Higher power levels and alternate fuels can easily be accommodated via facility modifications.
Inside the Fuel Cell Test Laboratory, two control rooms are used for reactant control, product water handling, system purging, powerplant operation, and data acquisition. The three test cells can be controlled and configured from either control room, enabling the isolation of sensitive or proprietary testing. Functions pertaining to safe reactant handling are controlled through the use of hardwired programmable logic controllers. This control architecture was chosen to avoid failures as a result of software or computer failures. Each test cell is equipped with hydrogen, high oxygen, low oxygen, and thermal sensors to monitor potential safety hazards. Data from these sensors are sent to the facility programmable logic controller for automated cell shutdown in the event that hazardous levels are detected. The sensor output is also connected to a Lab-wide monitoring system to allow for quick response during unattended operation. Video cameras are used to record routine testing as well as to capture any anomalous events. Programmable electronic loads are used to evaluate the power-producing capabilities of the stack, subsystem, or powerplant under test. These loads can be programmed to apply simulated mission power profiles in controlled current, voltage, or resistance modes.
The Fuel Cell Test Laboratory has the infrastructure to monitor individual cell voltages, stack voltages, currents, power, reactant pressures, reactant flow rates, and temperatures to enable total characterization of the test article. There are two facility data-acquisition systems, both of which are connected to the facility Ethernet backbone. The primary data-acquisition system is based on the National Instruments FieldPoint input-output system. The FieldPoint system is a modular, distributed system that easily enables configuration changes to match the data-acquisition requirements of the research articles under test without extensive rewiring. The facility also contains an eight-channel, high-speed data-acquisition system that can collect data at a rate of 200 kHz. This system enables the evaluation of powerplant performance, design, and response with respect to transient events such as rapid changes in power demand.
The extensive current and future capabilities of Glennís Fuel Cell Test Laboratory enable efficient development and evaluation of fuel-cell-based powerplants for NASAís current and future exploration and aeronautics missions.
Find out more about Glennís Electrochemistry Branch: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/Electrochemistry/
Dr. Patricia L. Loyselle, 216-433-2180, Patricia.L.Loyselle@nasa.gov
Analex Corporation contact: Kevin P. Prokopius, 216-433-6137, Kevin.P.Prokopius@nasa.gov
Authors: Dr. Patricia L. Loyselle and Kevin P. Prokopius
Headquarters program office: Aeronautics Research, Exploration Systems
Programs/Projects: Constellation Systems, VSP
Last updated: October 16, 2006
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