HDW Fuel Cell AIP System

Silent power for submarine application

Since the early days of submarine construction, increasing the submerged endurance has always been one of the most important objectives of engineering research and development activities. The dream of staying submerged for an almost unlimited period of time has become reality for non-nuclear submarines thanks to air-independent propulsion (AIP). ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems provides AIP systems both for direct integration into new submarine designs and as retrofit into already operational boats during modernisation.

Fuel cells are energy converters that transform chemical energy directly to electrical current without noise or combustion. In submarine application, they use hydrogen and liquid oxygen which are stored on board.

In the fuel cells, hydrogen and oxygen combine to produce water while giving off electricity (DC). This operating principle is the reversal of water electrolysis. The electrical energy is fed directly into the submarine’s main switchboard. The HDW fuel cell plant is designed as a special, silent energy converter and the extension of a conventional propulsion system. Its modular layout is just as simple as the principle itself. With its two highlight features of no exhaust gas production at all and extremely low dissipated heat, the HDW fuel cell system is the only AIP system that can be performed in a closed boat, irrespective of diving pressure and with no deteriorating influence on the submarine’s signature.

Meanwhile hardly any navy contemplating the acquisition of new non-nuclear submarines is prepared to do without the vast advantages of AIP. In addition, refit of HDW Class 209 submarines with a fuel cell plug-in section is state-of-the-art and can be carried out within the scope of a regular major overhaul. The large number of submarines already operating or under construction with HDW fuel cell propulsion systems is a clear indication of the extraordinary acceptance level of this technology by navies operating submarines throughout the world. Thanks to the advantages of low noise and low infrared signatures, high efficiency and low maintenance requirements, fuel cell plants are the ideal AIP solution for non-nuclear submarines.