College Park,
Project Term:
03/16/2021 - 03/15/2023

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 Maryland is developing a highly efficient and cost-effective hybrid-electric turbogenerator suitable for powering narrow-body aircraft. A solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) with integrated autothermal reformer is incorporated directly into the flow path of a gas turbine engine that also drives an electrical generator. The engine moves air through the system while boosting efficiency by recovering waste heat and unused fuel from the fuel cell. The system operates on carbon-neutral, liquefied bio-methane. Phase 1 of this project will include development and testing of low temperature, redox-stable, high power density SOFCs; design, fabrication and testing of a lab-scale integrated autothermal reformer/SOFC/combustor that mitigates risks for thermomechanical failure; and the design of a full-scale (26 MW) ESPG system. When integrated with a highly efficient turbo-generator, fuel storage tank, and battery, this ESPG system yields specific energy > 3kW/kg, specific power > 0.75 kW/kg, cost of fuel per delivered energy <$0.15/kWh, and an initial capital cost < $1000/kW. If successful, this technology could eliminate a significant fraction of the 174.8 million metric tons of CO2 produced each year by air travel in the U.S.

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:
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


United Technologies Research Center
Colorado School of Mines

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