Special Power Sources (SPS) will harness the advanced proton-conducting electrolyte developed at Kansas State University (KSU) and will deliberately design a novel, robust, tubular, high-performance, contaminants-tolerant, fuel-flexible, reversible electrochemical cells for producing Lunar and Martian propellants (H2, CH4, and O2), generating power, and thus supporting critical NASA missions. This proton-conducting electrolyte exhibits excellent conductivity (>0.02 S-cm) and thereby enables ultrafast and efficient propellants production and power generation. The reversible protonic ceramic electrochemical cells (PCECs) operate in electrolysis mode, converting H2O into H2 and O2 via H2O electrolysis or directly co-converting CO2 and H2O into CH4 and O2. These chemicals can be used as the Lunar and Martian propellants. When additional electricity is needed, it functions as a fuel cell in its reversed mode to produce electricity and water. PCECs display excellent fuel flexibility and contaminants tolerance and thus can directly produce and use multiple propellants including H2, CH4, kerosene, and O2.
The Team will demonstrate a novel tubular cell architecture by leveraging the capabilities at SPS. This effort will be the first time in the U.S. that PCECs are translated from planar form to tubular cells; this represents a significant achievement in and of itself. A tubular cell architecture is typically more robust in terms of its ability to handle thermal, chemical, and mechanical stresses and thus is more appropriate for NASA missions. We will determine how this tubular architecture can improve its robustness and reliability. Furthermore, we will test the full cell under extreme conditions, such as superfast charge/discharge rate, to determine its durability. In Phase I, we will demonstrate an electrical current density of > 500 mA/cm2 and transient currents >750 mA/cm2 for at least 30 sec.
Reversible PCECs can be used for:
1. Directly producing Lunar and Martian propellants (H2, CH4, and O2) through electrolyzing H2O or co-electrolyzing CO2 and H2O. Additionally, the produced chemicals can be used as the chemical building blocks and energy sources, which are necessary ingredients for life on Moon or Mars.
2. Generating power in fuel-cell mode by directly converting chemicals (H2, CH4, kerosene, and O2) into electricity.
2. Long-duration energy storage designed for NASA missions.
Protonic ceramic electrochemical cells can serve to efficiently produce renewable H2. After integrating with fossil power plants, PCECs can function as the fossil energy storage device to convert captured CO2 and H2O into methane. PCECs can be deployed to support DoD remote operations as reliable and distributed power sources increasing the warfighters’ ability to remain on station.