Hydrogen fuel cell lit up shuttle launch

NASA might not be looking ahead to launching anything new into space these days, but some innovative hydrogen fuel cell technology lit up operations on the ground at the 135th and final mission for the Space Shuttle Program.

During the July 8 launch of the shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a fuel cell-powered mobile lighting system was used in place of a traditional diesel-fueled generator.

The system was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) in conjunction with Boeing, and developed by Sandia National Laboratories in cooperation with industry partners.

The fuel cell produced electricity for a power-saving Light Emitting Plasma lighting system and provided up to 2.5 kilowatts of auxiliary power, which allowed additional equipment (such as power tools, public address systems and security metal detectors) to be powered by the unit while the lights were running – all with zero emissions.

And lest you scoff at the futuristic potential of such earthbound tech, Lennie Klebanoff, Sandia’s project lead, would like you to know that this hydrogen fuel cell-powered mobile lighting system has potentially dramatic real-world potential. 

Mobile lighting is commonly used in the entertainment field, construction and airport applications, and according to Klebanoff, replacing just one diesel system with a hydrogen fuel cell-powered system would trim diesel use by 900 gallons per year.

* Susan DeFreitas, EarthTechling