Ruggedized PEM Electrolysis Hydrogen Generator for PEPSAE Recharge

Period of Performance: 10/30/2012 - 01/29/2015


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Proton Energy Systems
10 Technology Drive Array
Wallingford, CT 06492
Principal Investigator


ABSTRACT: The objective of the proposed project is to develop a compact, lightweight, and robust hydrogen generator for refilling of metal hydride canisters, which will then be used in conjunction with a fuel cell for portable power for medical equipment during airborne transport. The proposed solution is a small ruggedized electrolysis unit based on proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology. Key components of the effort include verification of the cell stack at desired operating conditions such as production pressure and output capacity, packaging of the electrolyzer system for military field use, and design features to meet weight, operational, transportation, and storage requirements. The technical effort for the Phase II project includes identification of the optimal system operating pressure based on examining the trade between the cost and weight of the subcomponents vs. the fill capacity of the metal hydride. Other key parameters include 1) refinement of the hydrogen production rate to increase the number of hydride cylinders that can be filled per day, 2) selection of the final water purification scheme, 3) validation of the safety, mechanical, electrical, and control subsystems, and 4) build and delivery of functional prototypes in a relevant form factor for Air Force field testing. BENEFIT: Anticipated benefits include enabling the Air Force portable power solution based upon fuel cell and metal hydride hydrogen storage in order to provide continuous, long-duration, lightweight power from field to hospital locations. Specifically, support of critical-care patients, during an entire airlift operation which might last 12 hours or more, requires continuous power to maintain the patient monitoring and life-support systems. The metal hydride canisters can provide enough storage for the advanced fuel cells being utilized in this application, but need to be refilled between missions at a variety of sites, rather than having to return to a central base. The project will also continue to build valuable experience and understating of military field requirements for hydrogen generation in conjunction with other DoD fuel cell applications, to assist in evolution of hydrogen-based solutions for other off grid solutions. The proposed solution has significant commercial application in conjunction with Proton s existing laboratory onsite gas generation business. The Air Force needs are synergistic with the market drivers for the laboratory line and will be supported by Proton s concurrent re-design effort on the laboratory line for expansion and cost reductions. The majority of the subsystems being developed for the Air Force program can be directly incorporated into Proton s commercial products, such as the expanded output cell stack and integrated water purification. Similarly, Proton s lightweight, low cost phase separator developed for the commercial line can be adapted for the AFRL unit. This project thus provides the Air Force with a highly robust solution with significant dual use application and commercial potential.