Return to Human Space Flight home page

Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC)

Problem: The PEMFC program address the hardware obsolescence issues, the hazardous materials, the high hardware, operation and logistics cost, and the 2400 hour or less life of existent alkaline fuel cell powerplants.
Solution: The PEMFC powerplant eliminates the hardware obsolescence issue and increases safety by eliminating the hazardous KOH electrolyte and asbestos matrix of the alkaline fuel cell. The projected 10,000 hour life of the PEMFC would reduce the turnaround operation actives, support the increased flight rate with the same number of powerplants, as well as, reduce the ground operations and logistics costs.
Initial Operation Date: 12/02/98 first production units
Mission TBD
Technology Goal: The PEMFC technology utilizes a thin polymer sheet as the electrolyte in the power stack, as opposed to the aqueous KOH electrolyte of the alkaline fuel cell. Other significant ways that the PEMFC powerplant differs from the alkaline fuel cell powerplant, is that the water is produced as a liquid on the oxygen side instead of being dissolved in the hydrogen gas. This means that different technology will be needed for the water separation and removal from the stack, than is currently utilized on the Shuttle. Many of the other components that will be needed for a PEMFC powerplant are similar to those in the alkaline fuel cell powerplant, although some adjustments and modernization's will be necessary.
Goals Supported: 1) Fly Safely
2) Meet the Manifest
3) Improve Supportability
4) Reduce Cost


Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
Web Accessibility and Policy Notices