The U. S. Navy has teamed up with Versa Power Systems to develop a solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC) for use in one of its new unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV). Typically, SOFCs are used in stationary devices and run at very high temperatures (up to 1,800 F). Because of these high temperatures, there is no need for a platinum catalyst and SOFCs can use a wide range of fuels, which are hydrogen-rich.
The UUV with a Versa Power SOFC is preferable for the Navy over a diesel engine since it will move through the water very quietly and will be difficult to detect. The SOFC will also run in the water for twice as long as similar models with rechargeable batteries plus can be refueled very quickly unlike batteries.
The Navy UUV will be 20-feet long and approximately 21-inches in diameter and in a test run the SOFC was 70-percent efficient as compared with 30-percent for a normal combustion engine. The fuel cell will provide power to propel the UUV as well as providing electricity to run all onboard systems.
The Navy UUV will be used as a stealth surveillance vehicle and was tested by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island.