ISRO Successfully Tests Hydrogen-Oxygen Fuel Cell

  • 08 Jan 2024

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) recently achieved a milestone by demonstrating a hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell in space, generating 180W power during a short-duration test on the fourth stage of the PSLV launched on January 1.

Key Points

  • Fuel Cell Overview: The fuel cell, developed by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), utilized hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity while releasing heat and water as byproducts.
  • Ideal for Human Space Missions: These cells are well-suited for human space missions as they serve multiple mission requirements with the essential byproducts of heat and water.
  • Future Power Systems: ISRO Chairperson stated that the demonstrated fuel cell serves as a precursor to future power systems for space stations. ISRO is planning multiple test vehicle missions and at least one unmanned spaceflight under the Gaganyaan mission, with a target to set up a space station in low Earth orbit by 2035.
  • Zero-Emission Potential on Earth: The zero-emission characteristics of these cells make them potentially useful on Earth, offering a green alternative to vehicle engines.
  • Silicon-based Cell Demonstration: Another achievement included the successful demonstration of a Silicon-based cell by VSSC, providing a low-cost and lighter alternative to current cells.
  • The silicon-graphite composite used in this cell accommodates more Li-ions in a smaller mass, delivering more energy per unit weight compared to conventional cells.
  • Cost-Effective Hardware: The Silicon-based cell employs cost-effective hardware and a crimped sealing-based design, significantly reducing fabrication costs.
  • It demonstrated the ability to survive and perform in the harsh space environment on-board PSLV Orbital Experimental Module (POEM).
  • Operational Mission Application: ISRO emphasized that these cells are poised for use in upcoming operational missions, where a 35-40% reduction in battery mass is expected, leading to enhanced efficiency.
  • POEM Experiments: These fuel cell demonstrations were among the 10 experiments conducted during the third flight of POEM. ISRO has been repurposing spent rocket stages as platforms for technology demonstrations, showcasing a variety of experiments, including radiation shielding, amateur radio, and three propulsion systems by space start-ups.