NASA needs efficient and reliable methods for both portable and stationary electricity and heat generation, with the greatest possible flexibility. ITN's proposed MEA provides the solution, allowing for SOFC systems capable of generating electricity from a variety of fuels such as syngas, methane, hydrogen or hydrocarbon fuels. Potential NASA customers are the International Space Station or the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate or other long-term missions where such fuels are harvested from the Earth's atmosphere or the atmospheres or surfaces of other planets and used to generate electricity.
The fuel flexibility, high efficiency, scaleability, and durability of this MEA will lend itself to portable and stationary commercial SOFC applications with power outputs ranging from 20 W to 200 kW. An application of particular interest is the distributed energy generation market. Generators for the distributed energy market would range in size from 2 kW for a single household to 200 kW generators for small communities. This SOFC technology is uniquely suited for stationary distributed energy applications because it can operate directly on natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane, with minimal fuel processing and tolerate a wider range of operating conditions than state of the art SOFCs. This is significant for non-NASA commercial customers in the United States because natural gas is widely available to many homes or communities without investment in fuel delivery infrastructure. In addition, these generators could be used with other fuels in many remote applications where grid power is not available.