An exergy based analysis of the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) aboard the International Space Station (ISS) is conducted to assess its overall performance. Exergy is chosen as a measure of performance because it accounts for both the first and second laws of thermodynamics. The exergy efficiency of a system is first defined as the total exergy destroyed by the system relative to the total exergy input to the system. To determine the ECLSS exergy efficiency, the system is divided into constituent subsystems which in turn are divided into assemblies and components. Based on this system decomposition, exergy balances are derived for each assembly or component. Exergy balances and supporting calculations are implemented in MATLAB® code. The major subsystems of the ECLSS considered in this analysis include the Atmosphere Revitalization Subsystem (ARS), Atmosphere Control and Supply Subsystem (ACS), Temperature and Humidity Control Subsystem (THC), Water Recovery and Management Subsystem (WRM), and Waste Management Subsystem (WM). This paper focuses on the ARS and its constituent assemblies and components. Exergy efficiency of the ARS and its constituent assemblies and components is first presented. The Oxygen Generation Assembly (OGA), an assembly within the ARS, is then highlighted because the exergy destruction by the OGA is a large magnitude contributor to the overall exergy destruction of the ECLSS. The OGA produces oxygen to meet the crew’s metabolic demand via water electrolysis in a proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer. The exergy destruction of the OGA’s PEM electrolyzer is a function of the amount of oxygen produced, which determines the necessary current density and voltage drop across the PEM electrolyzer. In addition, oxygen production in the PEM electrolyzer requires deviation from the Nernst potential, presenting trade-offs between the exergy efficiency and critical life support functions. The results of parametric studies of PEM electrolyzer performance are presented with an emphasis on the impacts of polarization and operational conditions on exergy efficiency.

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