NASA needs an advanced sensing technology for in-situ monitoring of hydrogen (H2) gas within high-pressure oxygen (O2) streams. It is a critical safety component for the successful operation of regenerative fuel cells (RFCs) and in situ resource utilization (ISRU) systems. There, water undergoes electrolysis to generate hydrogen and oxygen for propulsion or energy storage. InnoSense LLC (ISL) in collaboration with University of Virginia (UVA), will develop an innovative nanomaterial‑enabled H2 sensor (H2SENTM) based on ISL’s patented microelectronic device platform. This project will support NASA needs expressed in 2020 NASA Technology Taxonomy, TX03.2.2 (Electrochemical: Fuel Cells), TX07.1.3 (Resource Processing for Production of Mission Consumables) and TX14.1.1 (In-space Propellant Storage and Utilization). In Phase I, ISL will: (1) design and fabricate the sensor with appropriate recognition structure, and (2) evaluate the sensor performance. Feasibility will be demonstrated by achieving sensitive and selective detection of H2 in the concentration range of 0-4% in oxygen background with 100% relative humidity at 250 psia. In Phase II, we will optimize the sensor design, recognition chemistry and algorithm, fabricate prototypes and perform rigorous characterizations.
During human exploration missions, H2SEN will: (1) provide accurate and real-time hydrogen concentration monitoring, and (2) ensure the safe operation of regenerative fuel cells (RFCs) and in situ resource utilization (ISRU) systems for mission success. H2SEN’s versatility can be adapted to serve as general hydrogen leak detector or monitor other analytes toward meeting NASA needs.
H2SEN will have significant commercial applications in the hydrogen economy. Examples include: (1) commercial hydrogen electrolyzers, and (2) leak detector for heavy-duty fuel cell truck or hydrogen powered aviation, and marine vehicles. As spin-off applications, H2SEN can be adapted with appropriate recognition chemistry for monitoring other environmental pollutants or toxic gases.