Electrochemical gas separation and inerting system

Following the TWA 800 flight disaster in 1996 which was attributed to an explosion in the fuel tank, inerting of the ullage (air volume above the fuel in the tank) has gained prominence. Fuel tank inerting is the process of reducing the flammability of the ullage by supplying it with an inert gas like nitrogen. Current inerting techniques are expensive, consume large amounts of energy, and fail prematurely. Here, we propose a novel in-flight electrochemical gas separation and inerting system (EGSIS) to produce and supply nitrogen-enriched air (NEA). EGSIS combines a polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell cathode with a PEM electrolyzer anode to generate humidified NEA as the cathode output which can be dehumidified and supplied directly to the fuel tank. The required rate of NEA varies during a typical flight and a major advantage of EGSIS is that the rate of NEA generation can be conveniently controlled by varying the voltage applied to the system. Here, we report on the performance of a single-cell EGSIS apparatus and evaluate its suitability for aircraft fuel tank inerting.
This article was originally published in Journal of Power Sources. The version of record is available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpowsour.2021.229959. This article will be embargoed until 05/15/2023.
gas separation, fuel tank, inerting, fuel cell, electrolyzer, nitrogen-enriched air
Aryal, Utsav Raj, Ashish Chouhan, Robert Darling, Zhiwei Yang, Mike L. Perry, and Ajay K. Prasad. 2021. “Electrochemical Gas Separation and Inerting System.” Journal of Power Sources 501 (July): 229959. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpowsour.2021.229959.