By Kalwinder Kaur
FuelCell Energy recently declared that the U.S. Navy has presented the company with a $3.8 M worth contract award that includes both manufacture and testing of a Hybrid Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC)-Battery power system that will support extensive displacement undersea vehicle propulsion.
The project’s major focus is to develop a high energy density refuelable power system ideal for performing lengthy underwater missions of unmanned submersibles. The Hybrid SOFC-Battery system will generate 1,800 kW-h of electricity while on a 70 day mission without any emission exterior to the vehicle. Liquid fuel will be used by this system. It will not depend on external air and is self-contained. This system can therefore be extensively used for underwater vehicle applications with less consumption of stored fuel and oxygen within the vehicle’s confined spaces. Based on unique oxygen storage technology, the system attains air independence, promoting stable neutral buoyancy without emitting system products. It also caters to the peak power requirements for a typical Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV) as defined by the U.S. Navy.
FuelCell Energy team will be assisted by a consortium for facilitating compliance with the program requirements. The technology developed by the innovator of SOFC, ‘Versa Power Systems’ has led to the development of SOFC fuel cell stack. In addition to other team partners, the novel power system development initiative was supported by leading organizations like NASA that engineered the oxygen storage needed by the power system, PNNL that extended the data for compact fuel processing design, and battery technology from Yardney. NUWC will equip the team with logistics of integration, systemization, and tie-ins with LDUUV systems’ balance.
The current 18 month-long phase I award will support the development and laboratory testing of the SOFC propulsion system, which will further inspire a phase II award that intends supplying full scale system for testing in an unmanned undersea vehicle.