High Capacity Fuel Cell from Protonex


Protonex unveiled its new fuel cell, offering unique advantages for military applications. The Protonex fuel cell is designed for optimized output power of 30 watts at 17 volt. The system is based on the fuel cell processor and replaceable cartridges, storing 720 W/h each. The cartridge contains Sodium Borohydride fuel in dry state and, upon being mixed with water it generates hydrogen consumed by the fuel cell to generate electricity. Protonex licensed the hydrogen generation technology from Millennium Cell Inc.

The cell will generate full power within 60 seconds from activation, for up to 24 hours. A Protonex fuel cell with three fuel cartridges replaces a3 BA5590 batteries, saving 62% on weight, 50% on size and about 20% on cost per mission.

Another application for the Protonex system is designed for Unmanned systems, both UGVs and UAVs. The ProCore fuel cell system generates 2-4 times the energy density of advanced batteries, significantly extending the run time of ground robots or UAVs and increasing their payload carrying capability. For example, the Protonex fuel cell was recently demonstrated on the AeroVironment Puma small UAV, which maintained continuous flight for nearly five hours. The standard Puma is equipped with rechargeable batteries that sustain mission of up to 150 minutes. The nearly five-hour duration of the Puma flight using fuel cell battery hybrid power surpassed the longest previous Puma flight achieved by AV using any technology. Looking forward, AV and Protonex expect Puma flight durations to increase further through optimization and continued development of the hybrid system.

Earlier in July 2007 Protonex received an $800,000 extension to a previously awarded contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to increase the power density of the ProCore fuel cell system, enabling even longer flight times and increased payload capability of small unmanned aircraft. The improvement in the chemical hydride fueling subsystem is expected to increase energy density, with the potential to deliver enough power for up to four times the available energy of batteries of the same size and weight, achieving flight times of up to ten hours. The ProCore uses a high power fuel cell stack technology to deliver energy density of 1,000 watt/kg. The entire system of fuel cell and cartridge weighs about two kilograms, each cartridge having the capacity of 770 W/h. The net output of the system is 50-200 watts, at voltage levels of 20-30 volt and output current of 1 – 10 amp.