SSES Conducting Technology Demonstration on Potential Submarine Fuel Cell Technology

Friday, June 13, 2003
By Chief Journalist David Nagle, Naval Sea Systems Command Public Affairs Engineers at Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division Ship Systems Engineering Station (SSES) in Philadelphia are performing a high-level feasibility and ship impact assessment of a new technology that could revolutionize submarine life support and stealth propulsion dynamics. Representatives from SSES' Machinery Research Department and Naval Sea Systems Command's Director for Submarine Design and Systems Engineering Group recently met with IonAmerica for a demonstration of the company's reversible solid oxide fuel cell technology, which could provide oxygen for a submarine crew to breathe, as well as power for use in submarine propulsion. The Advanced Power and Life Support for Submarines (APLUS) is an oscillating solid oxide fuel cell/oxygen generator concept for submarines. In its 'life support mode', the fuel cell electrolyzes both potable water and metabolic carbon dioxide to produce oxygen and methane. By design, this process provides more than enough oxygen for the crew to breathe and as a result, stores the excess oxygen. In addition, the hydrogen byproduct from the electrolysis of water is combined with the elemental carbon from the carbon dioxide electrolysis to form methane. Conversely, in 'fuel cell mode', stored oxygen and methane are used as the fuel for the solid oxide cell, generating instantaneous direct current. Following the demonstration, the Carderock engineers saw the potential of APLUS replacing existing proton exchange membrane-based oxygen generators in the Virginia and Seawolf class submarines, as well as the ship's diesel generator and/or battery. As a result, the SSES Machinery Research Department, also known as Department 98, is conducting a technology demonstration before the Navy makes any procurement decisions. "One of the roles of Department 98 is to maintain a state-of-the-art knowledge of technology for military applications," said Dr. Michael Golda of Department 98. "In this case, we found out about a new capability, witnessed a demonstration, and evaluated the technical feasibility in terms of improving existing and future classes of submarine life support systems." Department 98 is part of Carderock Division's Machinery Research and Engineering Directorate, in which research and Life Cycle Managers partner to provide the best naval machinery to the Fleet. Source: NAVSEA

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