Precision Combustion, Inc. (PCI) proposes to further mature 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 have been demonstrated for effective internal heat exchange and moderate the operating temperature of the stack. 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 was described. In a follow on Phase III, a complete modular SOFC 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.
The target application is for an advanced solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) power generation system that can provide power during lunar surface operations. Future power generation systems and ISRU-integrated concepts for lunar or Martian bases will be explored with NASA and private contractors. PCI’s approach offers a means for utilizing methane/ propellant/ scavenged in-situ reactants with air-independent operation and improved specific power, efficiency and long life. Utility for all-electric aircrafts and auxiliary power units is being explored.
Non-NASA applications include SOFC-based military generators and vehicle APUs; civilian vehicle fuel cell APUs and range extenders; electrified aircraft power generation; and distributed power generation for large stationary and mobile fuel cell applications seeking a cost-effective, multi-fuel capable, power dense fuel cell stack with an integrated fuel reformer.