The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) recently completed a UAV test flight using Cella Energy’s hydrogen-based power system. The system is based on Cella’s solid, nanostructured chemical hydride hydrogen storage material which is capable of releasing large quantities of hydrogen when heated. Cella Energy is a spin-off from STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK. (Earlier post.)
Cella designed and built a gas generator using this material, which when combined with a fuel cell, creates electrical power. The complete system—Cella gas generator along with a fuel cell supplied and integrated by Arcola Energy—is considerably lighter than the lithium-ion battery it replaced.
The work was funded by a grant from Innovate UK and has enabled Cella and Arcola to design and build a power system that could be incorporated into the Raptor E1, built and designed by Trias Gkikopoulos of Raptor UAS.
This flight used a small prototype system and we were pleased with the initial flight with another flight scheduled to take place in the near future. The larger versions of this system that we are already designing will have three times the energy of a lithium-ion battery of the same weight.—Stephen Bennington, Cella’s Managing Director
Cella’s production process takes ammonia borane (NH3BH3) with 12 wt% hydrogen content and incorporates a polymer to produce a composite. The material forms a microporous plastic-like solid which can be pressed, shaped or extruded into any form and to fit any space. Accordingly, the material can also be pelletized to form a solid fuel with fluid properties. Each gram of Cella material produces up to 1 liter of hydrogen gas.
The material production uses commercially scalable methods and Cella is currently capable, through toll manufacture, of making many tons of the material per year.
Cella’s solid-state hydrogen storage technology also addresses the issues that surround the transportation of compressed gaseous hydrogen. Cella’s material is a solid and is not under compression, is stable in air and at temperatures below 500 ˚C.
Because it is a chemical hydride, a chemical processis required to recycle the material; Cella says it is working with chemical industry partners to take the known recycling methods and scale them into a cost-effective industrial process.
Cella is also working on aerospace systems with its partner, Safran’s Herakles division (earlier post), which is soon to become part of Airbus-Safran Launchers, a joint venture between Safran and Airbus. The two have been working together to prove the feasibility of using Cella’s hydrogen storage material for aerospace applications. They have built a working system, and have gone a long way to understanding many of its safety, performance and certification requirements.
Arcola Energy supplies, deploys and supports off-the-shelf fuel cell products from vendors including Ballard and Horizon. Arcola will source and integrate fuel cell stacks or systems from leading developers worldwide.