Sodium chlorate oxygen generation for fuel cell power systems
Author(s)Garcia, Jorge David, S.M. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Douglas P. Hart.
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In this thesis we experimentally investigated the use of sodium chlorate as an oxygen storage medium for use in underwater fuel cell power systems. Research into improving hydrogen storage systems is the primary concern when designing fuel cell systems with access to atmospheric oxygen. However, in an underwater environment, performance of the oxygen storage system cannot be overlooked. Oxygen candles using sodium chlorate offer gravimetric storage densities similar to compressed gas storage while also offering volumetric storage densities greater than both gas and cryogenic liquid oxygen storage. Unfortunately, this technology does not allow for controllable rates of oxygen production and is known to cause fires and occasionally explosions when contaminated with organic materials or exposed to external sources of heat. Though useful as an emergency source of oxygen, sodium chlorate will not be viable for use in power systems until safer and more controllable methods of releasing its oxygen are implemented. During this project we developed a batch method for releasing oxygen from sodium chlorate. Two grams of sodium chlorate with nanoscale cobalt oxide catalyst were loaded into a reaction chamber and heated until decomposition. Afterwards a piston was used to eject the materials from the reaction chamber. This method proved to be safer and more reliable than similar chlorate-based oxygen systems as the primary modes of failure, those associated with the buildup of solid residue at the inlets and exits of the reaction chamber, were removed. Aside from preventing the flow of oxygen to a fuel cell, the over-pressurization caused by these problems could compromise the reaction chamber and potentially result in catastrophic failures. The achieved rate of oxygen production, 0.21 L/min with a heating rate between 25 W and 33 W, was below the target 1.13 L/min needed to operate a 200 W PEM fuel cell. Further assessment of this method will require the use of a more active cobalt oxide catalyst, a system with a larger reaction chamber capable of decomposing increased amounts sodium chlorate per cycle and a reduction in heat losses through the use of improved insulation and thermal isolation techniques.
Thesis: S.M., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering, 2017.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 95-97).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mechanical Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology