Precision Combustion, Inc. (PCI) proposes to develop a Primary Fuel Cell (PFC) System that will meet NASA’s lunar mission target specifications of (i) high specific power (>2,000 W/kg), (ii) high current density (>200 mA/cm2), (iii) long service life (a final operational life of >10,000 hrs is targeted), and (iv) operability with H2/O2, CH4/O2, and other propellants. The PFC system contains multiple innovations and will comprise SOFC and internal reforming catalyst that permit a potential for high fuel utilization and very high specific power, while allowing SOFC operation with hydrocarbon fuels (e.g., CH4 and scavenged propellants). The innovative design and integration of at-anode reforming elements will allow for effective internal heat exchange and moderate the operating temperature of the stack, enabling high fuel utilization. The approach also offers the potential to operate with a wide range of input fuels without forming carbon. At the end of Phase I, a clear path towards a 1 kW PFC system prototype demonstration in Phase II will be described. In a follow on Phase III, a complete 1 kW system will be developed, demonstrated, and delivered to a NASA facility for demonstration testing in a relevant environment. PCI’s approach will result in a system that will be much smaller, lighter, more thermally effective and efficient than current technology or prospective alternative technologies. This effort would be valuable to NASA as it would significantly reduce the known long-duration mission technical risks and increase mission capability/durability/efficiency while at the same time increasing the TRL of the solid oxide systems for lunar/Mars power generation and ISRU application.
Potential NASA Applications include future power generation systems and In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) concepts for lunar or Martian bases. The Primary Fuel Cell (PFC) systems have applicability over a broad range of mobile and stationary lunar surface systems, including landers, rovers, robotic rovers, and various science platforms.
Targeted non-NASA applications include solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC)-based military generators/vehicle Auxiliary Power Units (APU’s), commercial vehicle fuel cell APU’s and stationary fuel cell Combined Heat and Power (CHP) applications seeking a more cost-effective, multi-fuel capable, lightweight and power dense fuel cell stack with an integrated fuel reformer.