World’s first solid acid fuel cell system converts propane to electricity for soldier power

Fuel cell developer SAFCell, and development partner UltraCell, have demonstrated the world’s first stand alone solid acid fuel cell (SAFC) system converting propane into electricity to meet the increasing demand for portable power on the battlefield.

Under a U.S. Army Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant, SAFCell’s  proprietary SAFC stack was integrated into UltraCell’s existing micro fuel cell system. The unit produced over 50 watts of usable electrical power with tens of on/off cycles.

SAFCell’s CEO, Dr. Calum Chisholm, noted:

“This is a really big step for SAFCell. There is nothing like a complete system, with no cords plugged into the wall, to prove that we have developed a completely new fuel cell technology here. These results also prove the robustness and fuel flexibility that we have promised for our power units.”

SAFCell’s solid acid fuel cell technology operates at temperatures that do not require pure hydrogen as a fuel source, while avoiding the thermal issues and expensive materials used in high-temperature fuel cells. UltraCell is a world leader in the development of portable fuel cell power systems for demanding environments in both military and commercial applications. 

UltraCell General Manager and CTO Ian Kaye said:

“The speed with which we were able to assemble this fully functional system really speaks to the competency of both groups, and the compatibility of the system and stack technologies. UltraCell is very excited to be part of history, and I think people will point to 2014 as the year that solid acid fuel cells arrived on the map.” 

The system will be refined for maximum fuel efficiency and minimum weight/volume before final delivery to Army for testing in mid-2015. 

Rugged, efficient portable power is critical to the U.S. military. The U.S. Army consumes more than 357 million gallons of fuel per year just to operate portable generators. The Department of Defense plans to invest $1.7 billion to improve how energy is used for military operations.

SAFCell is working with the U.S. Army, oil & gas companies, and power system manufacturers to commercialize solid acid fuel cell systems. These quiet, clean systems operate on existing commercially available fuels such as; propane, diesel and natural gas. Initial applications include portable, remote, and auxiliary power. SAFCell is also building on the solid acid fuel cell platform to enable high purity hydrogen generation from the same commercial fuels for use in both power generation and industrial applications.

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