Based on Proton's unique experience in commercializing PEM electrolyzers, transitioning to NASA, DOD, and developing commercial applications are important outcomes of this technology development effort. The NASA applications for this technology are several: providing pressurized oxygen refill capability to a number of scenarios including ISS, EMU, and future lunar surface systems. Civilian commercial derivatives of this technology would enable a variety of energy storage applications. High pressure electrolysis provides the key capability for volumetrically dense hydrogen and oxygen storage. Impacts of this technology on military operations include enabling high altitude unmanned aerial vehicle operations and a variety of underwater vehicle operations, most notably UUV's. The similarity between the high altitude and undersea applications is that both require the storage of oxidant, in addition to the storage of fuel. High altitude UAV's can be used for missile defense, surveillance, and communications. Undersea applications include long-term distributed data gathering with long endurance buoys, transport of special forces personnel, and mine neutralization among others. In short, the proposed effort will support the development of an enabling technology for a variety of applications that require high pressure hydrogen and/or oxygen for energy storage and life support.
The proposed technology will also enable commercial regenerative fuel cell (RFC) systems, which will benefit from high pressure electrolysis for compact reactant storage. Proton is working to commercialize RFC systems for a variety of terrestrial energy storage applications. In particular, Proton's RFC technology has been demonstrated as a replacement for lead acid batteries in telecom backup power systems. This solution provides both ride-through capability and rapid response characteristics at a lower life cycle cost than battery technology. A natural extension of backup power is the integration of RFC's with inherently intermittent renewable energy sources. Additional massive and undeveloped markets are emerging as higher penetration of renewables causes grid balancing and regulation challenges. Small scale power generation and energy storage will become another distributed technology analogous to cell phones for communications.