Space Efficient Fuel Cell Fibers for Micro Air Vehicles

Period of Performance: 06/13/2006 - 03/13/2007


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Luna Innovations, Inc.
301 1st St Suite 200
Roanoke, VA 24011
Principal Investigator


The U.S. Air Force faces a growing need for small covert air platforms to detect, identify, and defeat enemy targets. These micro air vehicles (MAV) have stringent space and payload requirements. Existing battery technology cannot provide the energy densities needed to meet future mission durations. Low temperature micro fuel cell systems powered by hydrogen or hydrocarbons offer promising power performance. However, current materials technology limits these systems to using planar stacks of membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) that produce power. MEA stacks take up a significant amount of space which would be available to enhance payloads or increase fuel volume. Luna Innovations proposes the use of fuel cell fiber MEAs that avoid the traditional stack structure by wrapping the MEA layers onto a small thread-like fiber electrode. The inherent flexibility of these fibers allows them to be interspersed among the existing avionics, lift structures, and payload. Fuel cell fibers also represent a distributed power system which is more fault and damage tolerant. New materials technology used to construct the fibers will be demonstrated. Modeling and simulation will be used to compare existing micro fuel cell designs to that of the fuel cell fiber technology.