NexTech Awarded ONR Contract to Develop UUV Energy System

By Caroline Rees / 29 May 2012
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NexTech Materials, Ltd. has received a contract from the Office of Naval Research for a Future Naval Capability (FNC) project aimed at design, development and demonstration of a compact energy system for unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

In this project, NexTech and its team will complete a comprehensive design of an energy-dense power system for a 21-inch diameter UUV.  This system will be based on solid oxide fuel cell power generation using liquid hydrocarbon fuel (JP-10) and liquid oxygen reactants.  The project provides follow-on funding for three years of previous development work under an SBIR project (Phases I and 2) funded by the Office of Naval Research.  The starting point system design was established during this project, including a CAD model of the system and an analysis of system energy density over a range of conditions.  In addition, a breadboard SOFC system was built and tested at the 1-kW scale.

“NexTech is pleased to have our UUV energy system technology selected for further development by the Office of Naval Research.  We are excited to be participating in the development of technology that meets a critical need for the U.S. Navy and extremely gratified that ONR has placed their confidence in us to deliver on this project,” says Dr. Scott Swartz, Chief Technology Officer.

Fuel cells offer a number of potential performance advantages for generating power for a number of military applications, including battery chargers, auxiliary power units, and unmanned vehicles.  Specific to the UUV application, fuel cell based systems offer much higher energy density that can be achieved with batteries, as well as re-fueling capability.  The use of solid oxide fuel cells in conjunction with liquid hydrocarbon fuels offers extremely high electrical efficiency.  This reduces the volume and weight of fuel and oxygen that needs to be stored.

NexTech’s collaborators on the FNC project include:  Northrop Grumman as the lead in system engineering and future UUV energy system integrator; ATK as the designer and manufacturer of the cryogenic dewar system; Precision Combustion, Inc. as a developer and manufacturer of fuel processors and reformers for logistic fuels; and pH Matter, LLC to support system design activities.

NexTech joins Lynntech Inc., on the ONR project to long-endurance UUV power and propulsion as part of the Long Endurance Undersea Vehicle Propulsion research program. Lynntech was also awarded an $18 million ONR project on 23 May to develop a prototype UUV power and propulsion system.


Posted by Caroline Rees Caroline co-founded Unmanned Systems Technology and has been at the forefront of the business ever since. With a Masters Degree in marketing Caroline has her finger on the pulse of all things unmanned and is committed to showcasing the very latest in unmanned technical innovation. Connect & Contact