Study of Unitized Regenerative Fuel Cell Systems for Aircraft Applications
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Study of Unitized Regenerative Fuel Cell Systems for Aircraft Applications

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  • English

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      Final Report
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      Unitized regenerative fuel cells (URFCs) have been explored as potential high energy density power systems for aerial and space applications due to their potential to provide multiple functions with a single set of stack hardware. System designers and researchers have developed demonstration-scale URFCs using low temperature proton exchange membrane (LTPEM) and solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technologies. Both technologies have shown promise but exhibit features that are disadvantages for integration into an aircraft. High temperature proton exchange membrane (HTPEM) technology could have the ability to achieve the advantages of the previous technologies explored without the downsides. A 125-kW HTPEM URFC system design was developed specifically for an electric propulsion application. The system consists of a URFC stack stored within the oxygen reactant storage tank to save volume, simplify water management, and reduce system complexity. A hydrogen storage tank, thermal control system, pressure/flow control devices, and the control logic required to maintain safe and effective system operation were included and system concepts, operational parameters, and alarm conditions were defined. A system model was developed to explore the performance of the system in fuel cell mode during flight and electrolysis mode to recharge the reactant storage tanks while on the ground. The system was shown to be effective in providing power for one, two, and five-hour flights with a recharge time approximately equal to the time of the flight. Despite the projected success of the simulation, the mass and volume of components required to implement the HTPEM URFC into an aircraft may be prohibitive without extensive development and improvements in the system design and performance of individual components, including the URFC stack.
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