Solid oxide fuel cells have promise to meet some of NASA's emerging power generation system needs. An SOFC power system using the same reactants as the propulsion system (cryogenically stored oxygen and methane) can provide exceptional energy density. Lunar landers or other exploration vehicles are an ideal application of this technology. SOFC systems also may find uses on the moon or on Mars for generating power from hydrocarbons produced from In-Situ Resource Utilization technologies.
The lightweight and high efficiency SOFC technology to be developed on this project is specifically geared toward meeting the demanding requirements of NASA applications, but will have near-term applicability to energy systems for unmanned underwater vehicles. Meeting the robustness requirements (i.e., thermal cycles and rapid start-up) for NASA applications will make NexTech's SOFC technology suited for other military applications, such as gen-sets, auxiliary power units for silent-watch vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Additionally, the internal reforming stack technology to be developed in this SBIR project is directly applicable to residential micro-combined heat and power systems.