thyssenkrupp Marine Systems has introduced a fourth-generation fuel cell system (FC4G) for submarine applications.

The system was presented during the quadrennial SubCon submarine conference, held in Kiel.

The fuel cell system was launched after the completion of an extensive test program with more than 70,000 operating hours in the test environment.

This new system offers an upgrade of an already unrivalled and proven system.

thyssenkrupp CEO Dr Rolf Wirtz said: “Our customers have been using our fuel cell systems for more than 15 years now. With this fourth-generation, we are making something great even greater.

“This is the next big step with huge improvements in availability, redundancy and stealth. I am proud that we are again advancing our customers by setting new standards.”

The FC4G is designed to be a high-availability modular system, composed of redundant components to retain high-performance at all times.

It relies on the well-proven and exceptionally safe system of metal hydride cylinders for hydrogen (H₂) storage.

These cylinders do not contain any active components, thus, reducing failure to a minimum by holding H₂ molecules safely in place in the crystal lattice of the hydride.

Since H₂ is transferred to the system in its purest form, no chemical conversion is required and the efficiency of the overall system remains very high.

In contrast, reformer systems create CO₂ from a liquid fuel such as diesel oil, leaving a trace of CO₂ and potentially other by-products, including sulphur. It must be dissolved into the surrounding seawater by operating electrical pumps.

The same applies to air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems based on other principles, such as Stirling engines, closed-cycle diesel or closed-cycle steam turbines.

However, this is not the case for FC4G. The only by-products are electrical energy and pure water that is stored onboard for weight compensation.

H₂ is typically easily accessible in every customer country, where the chemical industry is operational or it can be produced by utilising green energy sources by splitting water into H₂ and O₂.

Overall signatures of the FC4G are the most in-demand on the market. With no by-products, the thermal and the acoustic signatures are kept to a minimum while the overall system efficiency is twice as good as any combustion engine.

The leader of product sales submarines Philipp Schön said: “These are the reasons why 38 systems were contracted so far with seven customer navies, another ten systems presently being under negotiation.”

With around 6,000 employees, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems is one of the world’s leading marine companies and a systems provider for the submarine and surface shipbuilding, as well as maritime electronics and security technology.

Over 180 years of constant improvement pursuit formed the basis for the company’s success in setting new standards.

thyssenkrupp Marine Systems offers customised solutions for highly complex challenges. The driving forces behind this are the employees of the company, who shape the future of thyssenkrupp Marine Systems with passion and commitment every day.

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