Defense

October 4, 2013

Army lab finding better ways to convert JP-8 to hydrogen for portable electric power

army-jp8a

What if soldiers could convert JP-8 to clean hydrogen fuel for fuel cell applications anywhere and anytime they need it?

A small team of scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory are collaborating with counterparts at the Communications-Electronics and the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Centers, to develop technology for lightweight, portable prototype systems that would convert Jet Propellant 8, commonly referred to as JP-8, to hydrogen on the spot.

“There is a growing demand for portable electrical power for both commercial and military applications,” said Dr. Deryn Chu, fuel cell team leader. “Our challenge is ‘How can we remove the many impurities in JP-8 so it can be effective in a fuel cell?'”

JP-8 is widely used by the U.S. Army as a fuel for powering aircraft, engines of tactical ground vehicles and electrical generators. It comes with a set of problems like the logistics resupply chain it requires, and the high cost associated with force protection of convoys, he said.

The Pentagon’s most-used jet fuel costs roughly $15 per gallon, but “… the cost multiplies to hundreds of dollars by the time you move it to and around operational locations,” Chu said.

army-jp8b

For the Army “… the smallest gain in efficiency is important. But fuel cells – when the concept is fully developed – may yield huge gains, potentially doubling the efficiency of diesel generators,” he said.

The chance for a game-changing technology is why fuel reformation is one of three high-risk, high-reward projects that the laboratory is pushing toward in search of operational energy solutions for the battlefield. Smart Battlefield Energy on-Demand and Long-Lived Power were also highlighted in this four-part series.

Researchers already knew the value of fuel cells for increasing efficiency, as that kind of approach has been explored since the 1960s. They also knew of ways to convert the high-energy density of hydrocarbons into hydrogen for fuel cells like the process that Bloom Energy and others use on the commercial market, said Dr. Zachary Dunbar, a team member who is exploring palladium membrane technology, using a rare metallic element as part of a purification system.

The challenge is developing a practical fuel reformation process for better energy conversion that would have to be portable, quick and easy to use, he said.

Last year, Army Research Laboratory’s research reached a milestone when they figured out a way to reduce the production costs associated with fuel reformation by using palladium membranes to purify hyrogen rich reformate, Dunbar said.

army-jp8c

In their work, scientists developed a new supported palladium membrane composite structure for purification technology to produce high-purity hydrogen from a feedstock of hydrocarbon fuel. Before this discovery, designing affordable, leak free, and high-flux membranes was much more difficult, he said.

“While it is a significant milestone, the research is in its early stages. Fuel reforming is a complex problem that we don’t expect to solve quickly,” Dunbar said.

The team tests materials that may reduce the sulfur concentration in JP-8. Dr. Dat Tran has tested at least 300 different combinations of materials during the last four years he has been investigating with the team, he said.

“JP-8 is a complicated and dirty fuel. The sulfur is a huge problem because it can hurt the fuel cells,” Tran said. “Sulfur has many different compounds that behave differently. The compounds in sulfur make it hard to find an agreeable material.”

JP-8 is a logistical fuel for the Department of Defense under its one-fuel policy. It is a unique problem for the Army. Industry is focused on natural gas, Chu said.

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Communications-Electronics Center, Command, Power and Integration, or CERDEC CP&I, experts are integral to the research because they transition mobile power systems from the lab to the field, said Dr. Terry Dubois, fuel reforming and combustion engineer at CERDEC.

army-jp8e

Everything from man-worn to multikilowatt systems comes through CERDEC, he said.

CERDEC CP&I enables the quick transition of optimum capabilities to the warfighter in support of ongoing operations.

Army units often wind up in places overseas with no infrastructure and limited supplies. The Army needs to explore and develop high-efficient fuel cell systems to reduce logistical supply. Scientists continue to grapple with the question of the best way to rid JP-8 of its organic sulfur compounds after it is in theater, Chu said.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines March 23, 2015

News: Obama says more troops will stay in Afghanistan next year - President Obama March 24 formally abandoned his pledge to bring U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan down to 5,000 by the end of this year, saying the current force of about 10,000 will remain there into 2016.   Business: U.S. special ops to sole-source 2,000...
 
 

News Briefs March 25, 2015

Pentagon notifying U.S. troops named by alleged IS hackers The Pentagon said March 23 it is notifying 100 U.S. military members that their names and addresses were posted on the Internet by a group calling itself the Islamic State Hacking Division. The group said it was posting the information, including photos of the individuals, to...
 
 
Courtesy photograph

Lockheed Martin acquires high-speed wind tunnel, plans upgrades

Courtesy photograph A RATTLRS cruise-missile inlet undergoes testing at the High Speed Wind Tunnel at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Grand Prairie. Lockheed Martin recently purchased the facility and plans numerou...
 

 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Andrew McMurtrie

Off they go: Three more C-130Js delivered

Lockheed Martin photograph by Andrew McMurtrie March 19, a U.S. Air Force crew took delivery of and ferried an MC-130J Commando II Special Operations tanker aircraft that is assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command’s ...
 
 

Northrop to provide DIRCM for Canadian Chinook fleet

Northrop Grumman has been selected by the Royal Canadian Air Force to provide infrared missile protection on its fleet of CH-147F Chinooks. “Battle-tested in the harshest conditions and in use around the world, Northrop Grumman’s infrared countermeasure systems have been protecting warfighters for more than 50 years,” said Carl Smith, vice president, infrared countermeasures, ...
 
 

UTC Aerospace awarded contract for surface ship sonar domes

UTC Aerospace Systems has received a contract from the Naval Surface Warfare Center – Crane, Indiana, to provide sonar domes for surface combat ships. The five-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract is valued at up to $39 million and covers deliveries through 2020 to the U.S. Navy and foreign military sales. In addition to the...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>