Last week, Boeing delivered a new toy to the United States navy – a 50kW reversible solid oxide fuel cell. The system acts an energy reservoir, storing liquid hydrogen that can be tapped on demand. However it also generates that same fuel from seawater, powered by wind and solar energy. Perfected and scaled up, the technology could potentially allow naval vessels to power their systems indefinitely at sea.
“The SOFC is a most promising technology for both remote islands and expeditionary applications,” said Michael Cruz, a project manager with the navy’s Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Centre. “Combined with a solar photovoltaic array, a SOFC system generates electricity, potable water, and heat with only two inputs, sunshine and seawater.”
The United States government has been studying reversible fuel cells for over 10 years, but this delivery marks a milestone in real world application. The reversible fuel cell has reportedly performed well over sixteen months of internal testing, and now will put through its paces in a practical environment.