Initiated in 2001, this effort is based at the Hawaii Sustainable Energy Research Facility (HiSERF) , formerly known as the Hawaii Fuel Cell Test Facility. Testing is focused on proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell materials, fuel cells, fuel cell (FC) stacks, and small systems for commercial and DOD applications, including unmanned aerial and undersea vehicles.
Current research and development efforts are focused on understanding the impacts of fuel and airborne contaminants on fuel cell materials, fuel cell, fuel cell stack, and fuel cell system performance and lifetime. Ongoing field studies include the modification of fuel cell buses to operate in volcanic environments. An equation-based, object-oriented fuel cell model library was developed by HNEI and Georgia Tech and is being used at HNEI to understand the effects of contaminants at the cell level and in a system exposed to volcanic gases. HNEI was part of the team (including the Naval Research Laboratory and Protonex) that developed and flew an unmanned plane for over 24 hours on 500 grams of hydrogen. Current topics extend to derivative technologies including the separation of helium from hydrogen rocket system process streams. The helium reclamation system developed by the HNEI and Sierra Lobo partnership was recently and successfully demonstrated and tested at the NASA Stennis Space Center. Researchers in this laboratory have developed many innovative chemical and electrochemical characterization techniques to separate performance losses into different contributions and elucidate mechanisms controlling reactant and product transport and fuel cell degradation. Some of these techniques are now being applied to test battery packs and gain additional insights into the operation of battery energy storage systems.