Lightweight, Rugged, Portable Fuel Cell

Period of Performance: 09/18/2002 - 03/17/2003


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Creare, Inc.
16 Great Hollow Road Array
Hanover, NH 03755
Principal Investigator


To operate sensors to verify future arms control agreements, inspectors will need a portable power source. The power source must be rugged, lightweight, reliable, adaptable to a variety of different sensor applications with different current/voltage requirements, and simple to refuel in the field. We propose to develop a polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell that is ideal for arms control inspectors. The system is based on proven membrane/electrode assemblies. Innovative cell components and system design make the system rugged, reliable, lightweight, and easily transportable. A "smart" power control system enables the system to supply power at any voltage between 12 and 120 V. The system uses fuel that is easily transportable and/or obtainable nearly anywhere in the world. In Phase I we will prove the feasibility of this system by demonstrating the operation of a prototypical fuel cell stack, assessing the key design trade-offs, and producing a conceptual design for the prototype fuel cell. In Phase II we will develop the system components, complete a detailed system design, fabricate the stack, and assemble the system. Phase II will culminate with a demonstration that the system can produce 220 W of power for 12 hours. For arms control inspectors, the proposed system will eliminate the logistical burden of supplying power for critical sensors: it is easily transportable, provides output voltage suitable for a variety of sensors, and can be easily refueled nearly anywhere. Proven PEM technology leads to long working life. Low-cost components and silent operation will make the device commercially attractive as a portable power source for recreation, remote communications, police applications, environmental monitoring, and uninterruptible power supplies.