High-Efficiency and Low-Carbon Energy Storage and Power Generation System for Electric Aviation

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La Jolla,
Project Term:
04/26/2021 - 04/28/2023

Critical Need:

ARPA-E seeks to mitigate the growing environmental burden associated with commercial air travel at minimum economic cost. The REEACH objective is to develop a disruptive energy storage and power generation (ESPG) system to convert the chemical energy contained in energy-dense carbon neutral liquid fuels (CNLFs) into electric power for aircraft propulsion via electric powertrains and other key systems. Ultra-high conversion efficiency and high specific power and energy are critical for technical feasibility and commercial success of the ESPG systems due to CNLFs’ generally either lower specific energies or higher projected cost compared to incumbent fossil-based jet fuels.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

The University of California, San Diego aims to develop a high-efficiency and low-carbon energy storage and power generation (ESPG) system operating on bio-LNG for electric aviation. The proposed system concept is a fuel cell, battery, and gas turbine hybrid system that incorporates a novel solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) stack technology. The proposed SOFC is composed of (1) a lightweight and compact stack architecture based on an array of cell modules in electrical and gas flow parallel and series connections and (2) exceptional high power density direct methane cells made by sputtering thin-film deposition process. Phase 1 will demonstrate a laboratory-scale (~4 kW) multi-module stack designed with the performance, reliability, and projected cost suitable for incorporation in aircraft ESPG systems. The proposed system has been estimated to have the specific power and specific energy properties aligning to the competitive capital costs required for aircraft ESPG applications.

Potential Impact:

Electrified aviation propulsion systems have the potential to achieve ultra-high fuel-to-propulsive power conversion efficiencies compared with existing turbofan and turboprop systems.


This program could ensure U.S. technology leadership in ultra-high efficiency aircraft propulsion systems capable of exploiting CNLFs.


A high specific power electrified propulsion system framework could enable net-zero carbon aviation by facilitating the transition to carbon neutral liquid fuels (CNLFs) while meeting all mission requirements.


The developed ESPG sub-system could provide the foundational technology for a new industry in ultra-high efficiency propulsion systems while improving the competitiveness of the existing air transportation industry by reducing fuel costs.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. David Tew
Project Contact:
Dr. Nguyen Minh
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