The US Navy has awarded FuelCell Energy, Inc. a $ 3.8-million Phase I contract to develop and test a Hybrid Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC)-Battery power system for large displacement undersea vehicle propulsion. The objective of the project is to develop a refuelable power system, with high energy density, that is suitable for undertaking long duration underwater missions of unmanned submersibles.
The Hybrid SOFC-Battery system will be capable of generating 1,800 kWh of electricity during a 70-day mission with no exhaust discharged outside of the vehicle at any time. It will use liquid fuel and be self-contained with no reliance on external air.
The FuelCell Energy Hybrid SOFC-Battery power system is attractive for underwater vehicle applications as its high efficiency minimizes usage of both stored fuel and oxygen in the confined spaces available onboard the vehicle.
The system achieves air independence by utilizing a novel oxygen storage technology, maintains neutral buoyancy with no discharge of system products and is capable of responding to the peak power demands for a typical Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV) as defined by the US Navy.
A consortium will work with the FuelCell Energy team to fulfill the program requirements. The SOFC fuel cell stack is based on the technology developed by Versa Power Systems, an SOFC developer that is partially owned by FuelCell Energy. Other team partners include the Energy Systems Division of NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Yardney Technical Products, Inc., Naval Underwater Warfare Center (NUWC), and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).
NASA will develop the oxygen storage required by the power system, Yardney will supply the battery technology, and PNNL will provide compact fuel processing design knowledge. NUWC will complement the team on a range of topics including the logistics of systemization, integration, and tie-ins with the balance of LDUUV systems.
This 18-month phase I award will fund development and laboratory testing of the SOFC propulsion system. Successful performance results may lead to a phase II award that would involve the delivery of a full scale system for testing in an unmanned undersea vehicle.
LDUUV. In 2011, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) issued a Broad Agency Announcement (ONRBAA Announcement # 11-025) for the development of technologies critical to The Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (LDUUV) Innovative Naval Prototype (INP). The goal is to enable UUVs to operate and survive in the littorals for 70+ days. The LDUUV is a pier-launched and recovered UUV (without the need for ship-launch or recovery) with the capability to transit in the open ocean and conduct over-the-horizon missions in littoral waters.
The system is intended to enable the extension of Navy platform sensing capability over the horizon and extend its influence. ONR identified two technology areas as critical: Autonomy and Endurance Technologies.
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