ElectroChem Awarded NASA Fuel Cell Contract

April 23, 2002 by Jeff Shepard

ElectroChem Inc. (Woburn, MA) has been awarded a $1.0 million NASA contract for the first-phase development and a $2.5 million option contract for the second-phase development of a fuel cell power plant for the next generation of reusable launch vehicles (RLVs). ElectroChem was one of two companies chosen to develop a pre-prototype proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell power plant for the Second-Generation Reusable Launch Vehicles Technology Risk Reduction Program.

At the end of phase one (17 months), ElectroChem will deliver its pre-prototype to NASA. After testing the pre-prototype from both companies, NASA will select one company for the 22-month phase-two option, which entails the development of a full-size engineering model PEM fuel cell power plant. The PEM is a thin plastic sheet coated with metal alloy particles that act as catalysts for the release of hydrogen ions, or protons, when hydrogen atoms pass through the membrane. The ions travel in the form of an electric current.

"The project is both a wonderful opportunity and an affirmation of our expertise in the development of fuel cells," said Radha Jalan, president and CEO of ElectroChem. "We are now seeing the great promise of fuel cell technology come to life."