BOSTON, January 16, 2004 – A contract was awarded to Reactive Innovations, LLC (RIL), formerly MicroCell Technologies, from the NASA-Langley Research Center to develop an electrochemical power plant for terrestrial flight applications. An improved electrical energy storage system is needed by NASA to provide power to terrestrial flight platforms. RIL’s electrochemical based power plant uses a proton exchange membrane fuel cell that is coupled with a hydrogen fuel supply cartridge to provide readily scalable power levels up to 1 kW of power at 24 VDC. The hydrogen supply cartridge may be readily exchanged between missions helping to shorten the turn-around time for the flight vehicle. The design of RIL’s fuel cell power plant is based upon using hydrogen and ambient air that will operate over varying temperatures, humidity, and altitude to provide reliable power to the air vehicle. RIL will initially demonstrate the feasibility of its power plant operating at a lower module wattage near 50 watts with an integrated fuel supply that will last for 12 hours. Further extensions of the technology will be focused on a 1000 W, 24 VDC power plant that may operate for up to 12 hours.
RIL projects that its electrochemical power plant for terrestrial air-vehicles will result in a robust electrical generator with energy densities of 2300 W-hr/kg and 2480 W-hr/liter, capacities that are significantly greater than that attainable with present day batteries. The major benefits of RIL’s fuel cell design approach are a high power density and specific energy density that are attainable independent of orientation and attitude, a feature that allows wider applicability and usage of the fuel cell generator. RIL’s innovative power generator will enable NASA to deploy terrestrial flight platforms for longer durations or to carry heavier payloads since the generator has a high gravimetric and volumetric energy density.
The applications of RIL’s improved energy storage system beyond NASA needs may be directed toward commercial markets that typically employ batteries to obtain higher energy density or longer run-time performance. RIL’s compact fuel cell technology is well suited toward replacing batteries for portable power applications including communication devices, laptop computers, tools, and remote and emergency power generators.