PowerUP Energy Technologies, an Estonian cleantech start-up, will be developing 1kW liquid- cooled closed cathode hydrogen fuel cells for the stack on lunar cargo ships.
The company has also recently signed a new contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the work.
The company announced this hydrogen fuel news and that lunar cargo ships would not be the only vehicle using the stack. The closed cathode hydrogen fuel cells stack would also be built into rovers. Under typical conditions, fuel cells are built with an open cathode. That said, on missions to locations such as the moon and Mars, there is a lack of oxygen. Therefore, a closed cathode alternative is required. Over the last ten years, there have been a number of research and development efforts focusing on regenerative proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell systems for space applications.
The new contract could mean the closed cathode hydrogen fuel cells could go to the moon and Mars.
“Usually fuel cells are open cathode. This means that they take oxygen from the surrounding air, but in the case of Mars and Moon missions, there is no oxygen,” said PowerUP Energy Technologies CEO Dr. Ivar Kruusenberg while discussing the new contract. “To tackle this, with the help of ESA we will develop a 1kW closed cathode hydrogen fuel cells stack that could work in such space missions. This stack would serve as an additional energy source that will be integrated with solar panels and batteries.”
“In cases where the solar panels could not be used to charge the batteries such as during night- time, that is when our stack will come into play,” Kruusenberg went on to say. “I believe fuel cell systems have a great potential in space missions to the Moon or to Mars, particularly to power supply robotic rovers and cargo ships, such as in the current case. We are extremely excited to be developing this under the European Space Agency’s guidance.”
PowerUP Energy Technologies aims to have the first closed cathode hydrogen fuel cells prototype stack finished by 2023.