Fuel cells represent an efficient way of converting hydrogen to electricity without generating harmful byproducts.
Current refueling operations at sea are risky, whereas the Electrolytic Cation Exchange Module would not require the addition of any more chemicals, owing to the efficient refueling properties.
The hope is that multiple fuel types can be extracted from sea water other than JP-5 jet fuel, such as LNG, CNG, and F-76 fuel.
As one of the technique’s inventors, U.S. Naval Reserve Commander Felice DiMascio commented,
“A ship’s ability to produce a significant fraction of the battle group’s fuel for operations at sea could reduce the mean time between refueling, and increase the operational flexibility and time on station. Reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery with the potential to increase the Navy’s energy security and independence, with minimal impact on the environment, were key factors in the development of this program.”
Progress has been made since earlier attempts of the module, which had produced a fraction of a gallon of fuel daily. The extraction technique happening in the Marine Corrosion Facility situated in Key West, Florida, is still undergoing changes until it is able to produce a gallon of fuel daily by the end of the year.
In addition, the Navy in conjunction with General Motors plans to power an autonomous mini-submarine with a GM-produced hydrogen fuel cell, which with its onboard energy storage of a 60-day endurance framework, works best.
At the Naval Surface Warfare Center, located in Maryland, the Naval Research Laboratory has already evaluated a prototype of the mini-submarine. It passed the necessary standards.