BOSTON, January 16, 2004 – Reactive Innovations, LLC (RIL), formerly MicroCell Technologies, was awarded a contract from the NASA Johnson Space Center to develop a high pressure water electrolyzer for low gravity environments. Improved electrolyzers are needed by NASA for generating propellants in low-gravity environments using water or ice as the reactant. It is desired to minimize the mass and energy requirements for the electrolyzer system to lessen launch and operational requirements during gas generation. The operation of the electrolyzer system in a low-gravity environment also offers challenges to the flow of two-phase gas/liquid flows in the electrolyzer system. Reactive Innovations, LLC will develop and demonstrate its compact electrochemical reactor technology to function as an energy efficient electrolyzer that may generate high-pressure hydrogen and oxygen gas. This pressurized gas is generated directly within RIL’s electrolyzer eliminating the need for a compressor to produce 2000 psig. RIL’s electrolyzer system generates this pressurized gas within a compact and energy efficient device with a projected power density of 1.1 kW/kg at a hydrogen production rate of 1.8 liters/hr (STP) at 85% efficiency.
RIL’s design approach for the electrolyzer results in a more energy efficient process that minimizes electrical requirements, reduces the system mass, eliminates parasitic energy costs associated with the balance of plant, and improves the system reliability while functioning in a low-gravity environment. NASA may use this technology for generating propellants on-board spacecraft as well as on lunar or planetary stations or rovers.
Commercial applications of this electrolyzer beyond NASA needs may be used toward generating hydrogen economically as a part of the growing hydrogen economy. The electrolyzer could be used for generating hydrogen ranging from smaller laboratory gas generators to larger industrial generators. The generation of oxygen for industrial and medical applications is also a potential application of RIL’s reactor technology.