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Clara Venture Labs to power space exploration with innovative Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technology

Bergen, Norway – February 15 – 2022 – Clara Venture Labs has signed a contract with ESA (European Space Agency) for the supply of a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) system that will power a space craft aiming to land on one of the moons to the giant planets Jupiter or Saturn.

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By Annette Frotjold Published

Planetary space exploration relies heavily on energy from solar panels, but the limited solar energy density in deep space makes exploration problematic. For instance, ESA's Huygens mission transmitted data for only 90 minutes after landing on Saturn's moon Titan in 2005. Therefore, such missions cannot rely on only solar panels, and the energy required for the lander must be brought from earth. Batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, fuel cells with alternative fuels, and nuclear sources are some alternative energy sources.

According to ESA, Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) that use methane and oxygen are a very promising energy source, as the fuel can be stored in storage tanks for long durations. Such a system can provide electric power and at the same time valuable heat to keep the critical systems of a landing probe in an acceptable temperature range.

Senior Researcher in Clara Venture Labs, Ivar Wærnhus, will lead the project that shall develop a 200 W fuel cell that can be operated with methane and oxygen, suitable for space missions with transfer time of more than 5 years.

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Best efficiency with Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

“Since hydrogen cannot be stored for years without significant loss of reactants, methane and oxygen are most suitable as fuel for this application, and the Solid Oxide Fuel Cells can convert the fuel to electricity with the best possible efficiency”, says Ivar Wærnhus.

The project is a collaborative effort between Clara Venture Labs, Added Value Solution (AVS) and Centre of Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH).

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Space exploration for innovative breakthroughs on Earth

“It’s exciting to take part in this visionary research programme for outer space. Studying how space affects fundamental processes of our existence and discovering sustainable methods to explore space is crucial for the further advancement of innovative breakthroughs on Earth. Spaceflight has produced many products we now take for granted, and at Clara Venture Labs, we recognize the connection between high-tech space research and sustainable development on Earth”, says Michelle Williams, CEO in Clara Venture Labs.

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Annette Frotjold

Marketing & Communications Manager