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Enzyme Fuel Cell


OUSD (R&E) MODERNIZATION PRIORITY: Biotechnology Space TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics; Materials OBJECTIVE: This SBIR Direct to Phase II project will design and develop a 1 kW Enzyme based Fuel Cell capable of silent power generation and very high efficiency. An enzyme fuel cell is an excellent power source for electric vehicle range extension, auxiliary power, or robotic power for payloads. The technology is based on the use of enzymes to “digest” hydrocarbons successfully demonstrated on the clean up of oil spills and on lab scale demonstrations of JP-8 fuel to generate Hydrogen for use in fuel cells producing electrical power. A proof of concept 1 kW fully developed fuel cell is needed to verify the >70% JP-8 fuel to electric power efficiency as well as to determine the acoustic and thermal characteristics of this system. DESCRIPTION: The purpose of this Direct to Phase 2 topic is to develop an enzyme fuel cell power generation system that uses JP-8 fuel to produce electrical power at high efficiency (>70%). Currently, Large engines can get in the 40-50% efficiency range, but this is not likely using JP-8 fuel. Small engines can get in the 20-25% efficiency range but are very loud. Current JP-8 fuel cells utilizing fuel reformer technology is large and heavy, with 30% efficiency. However, leveraging enzyme technology, JP-8 fuel cells can eliminate the need for the fuel reformer, leading to efficiencies over 70%. This concept will be successful because it leverages demonstrated technology utilizing enzyme hydrocarbon digestion. Engineering challenges, integration, and system scale up remain and will be the focus of this effort. PHASE I: This Direct to Phase II will require demonstration of a 1 kW JP-8 fuel cell system with an enzyme hydrocarbon digester. A Lab-scale prototype with an electrode area of at least 1 cm2 is encouraged. Companies must show the following technical feasibility to show proof of concept in Phase I: (1) enzyme activity already digests hydrocarbon fuels at a wide range of temperatures; (2) JP-8 fuel cell must have been evaluated in a lab-scale prototype with an electrode area of at least 1 cm2; and (3) must provide initial design concepts, start-up time estimations, scaling calculations and energy loss models. PHASE II: Continue enzyme development to improve system performance. Develop a small-scale system and test the system to demonstrate high efficiency (>70%). Scale up the size of cells and design the mechanical structure for both larger cells and stack-level components. Design, build, and demonstrate a 1 kW JP-8 fuel cell system with an enzyme hydrocarbon digester. Perform a feasibility study on scaling up the power of the system to future customer power requirements. PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Scale up to customer designed power range (5 kW, 10 kW, 25 kW). While this topic is mainly geared towards aviation use cases, the creation and adoption of this technology has the potential to significant contribute to the commercial adoption and success of electric vehicles. REFERENCES: Svoboda, Vojtech and Atanassov, Plamen, “Enzymatic Fuel Cell Design, Operation, and Application”, May 2014 KEYWORDS: Enzyme; Fuel cell; power generation; hydrocarbon digestion
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