Browse Publications Technical Papers 2001-01-3455
2001-10-01

US Army Mobile Fuel Cell Development Program 2001-01-3455

This presentation includes results of fuel cell research activities sponsored by the US Army for the last several years. It outlines current efforts and future plans. Fuel cells promise significant advantages in terms of weight, coupled with cost and/or logistics benefits. Military applications for fuel cells vary. Missions analyzed to date range from small man portable units of the 1-500 Watts and 180 - 12,000 Watt-Hrs to mobile auxiliary power units (APUs) in the 0.5 - 10 kW power range. Military power source must be robust and capable of powering equipment under all environmental conditions. Fuel cell power sources have been demonstrated for several Military applications and are being investigated as a possible power source for the Soldier System, Robotics, Sensors and APUs. Much of the Army's efforts to date have focused on small battery replacement and hybrid fuel cell/battery systems. Example: Army development programs include: a hydrogen/oxygen unit developed in the mid 90s and currently under evaluation by NASA for future space missions; a 100 W fuel cell based battery charger developed by Ball Aerospace Corporation; and a 50 Watt fuel cell used to power remote sensor systems. Because PEM fuel cells provide quite, vibration free and low signature operation, a future application of these power sources are as APUs for combat vehicles. Although considerable progress has been made in reducing the size and weight of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, a key technical barrier for military applications has been the hydrogen supply. The effective use of fuel cells in the military will require a safe, high energy density, transportable, reliable source of hydrogen. The Army's current and future research and development efforts are focusing on methods of either storing or generating hydrogen on the battlefield. Hydrogen storage technology is considered critical to small military and/or commercial fuel cell systems. This technology area is of major concern and is being pursued in a host of commercial and government programs. CECOM, in a joint effort with the Army Research Office (ARO) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is developing several promising hydrogen generating technologies. This goal of this program is a safe, reliable hydrogen source that can provide rates up to 100 Watts and an energy density of 1000 Watt-hrs/kg. For larger fuel cell units (>500 Watts) it is imperative that the fuel cell power units be able to operate on fuels within the military logistics systems. CECOM is currently conducting research on catalysts and micro-channel fuel reformers that appear to offer great promise for the reforming of diesel and JP-8 fuels. In addition to research work on PEM fuel cells and enabling technologies, the Army is also conducting research on direct methanol and solid oxide fuel cells. Fuel cells offer the promise of size, weight and cost advantage over current military power source, however research and development work is still needed on hydrogen sources before this technology can be fully integrated within the military.

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