Two Contracts for Regenerative Fuel Cells

Proton Energy Systems, a subsidiary of Distributed Energy Systems Corporation has been awarded two contracts for regenerative fuel cell development. The U.S. Army Missile Defense Agency (MDA) awarded a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I contract to Proton Energy Systems for development of lightweight regenerative fuel cell technology for high altitude airships. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) awarded a SBIR Phase II contract to Proton Energy Systems for development of lightweight unitized regenerative fuel cell technology for unmanned aerial vehicles.

Wallingford, Connecticut – December 26, 2003 [] The goal of the Phase I contract with MDA is to achieve key milestones that demonstrate the possibility of manufacturing lightweight regenerative fuel cell hardware to meet the needs of high altitude airships. The ultimate design goal is to develop and demonstrate a hydrogen/oxygen regenerative fuel cell with lightweight packaging capable of high-pressure hydrogen and oxygen generation and multi-kilowatt power output. The MDA contract is part of a U.S. Department of Defense initiative to develop a lighter than air, high altitude airship Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) prototype. According to the MDA, this ACTD plans to demonstrate the engineering feasibility and potential military utility of an unmanned, un-tethered, gas filled, solar-powered airship that can fly at 70,000 ft. The NASA Phase II contract goal is to demonstrate the feasibility of producing and operating lightweight unitized regenerative fuel cell hardware to meet the needs of aerospace applications. Proton’s regenerative fuel cell design incorporates the company’s core commercial hydrogen generator technology with a fuel cell design, which is capable of generating its own hydrogen at pressure. Building upon the Phase II work, the ultimate design goal specified by NASA is to fill a need for very high energy density energy storage systems for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) flight platforms. NASA intends for these UAVs to perform missions in the areas of terrestrial observation and earth science. Proton’s completion of previous NASA SBIR Phase I and Phase II contracts, as well as its ongoing contract with the Naval Research Laboratory funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) facilitated the demonstration of zero-gravity unitized regenerative fuel cell operation as well as the ability to electrolyze water to generate hydrogen and oxygen gases at pressures exceeding 3,000 psi. Proton’s Hipress, a solid-state electrolysis cell stack design, made the efficient compression of these gases possible, a key feature in high energy aerospace density applications. “The objective of these contracts is a new level of weight and performance of our energy storage systems,” said Distributed Energy President Walter “Chip” Schroeder. “These advances will have important applications not only in NASA and related military, aerospace, and homeland defense missions, but also ultimately in commercial power quality markets.” The NASA SBIR Phase II contract award is valued at US$599,160 over two years. The award is based on Proton’s progress against key milestones in the SBIR Phase I contract. The MDA SBIR Phase I contract is valued at $69,865 with a 6-month period of performance.
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