Hydrogen Generation for Balloons

Anasphere has been developing robust, solid-state hydrogen gas generators since 2011. Our patented generators produce dry hydrogen gas at a rapid and controlled rate. The primary terrestrial application for these generators is the inflation of meteorological balloons in remote areas or on unconventional platforms.
These generators are scalable, with quantities of gas generated ranging from less than 100 normal liters to over 20,000 normal liters. Their all-solid-state construction ensures that they are storable for long periods under a wide range of conditions. The generators are pyrotechnic devices and can be initiated using conventional pyrotechnic initiators.

Typical generators for inflating meteorological balloons are housed in 5-gallon steel drums (shown). These can have capacities up to 3 cubic meters of hydrogen. A silicone hose and an inflation wand are used to provide gas to the balloon, and the only other item required is a 12-volt battery to initiate the generator. A movie showing the inflation process is found here.

Development History

Anasphere's controlled-rate pyrotechnic gas generators have their design roots in an Air Force project to launch balloon-borne radiosondes from the flare dispensers of F-16s. Starting from that demanding environment, they have found applications in other unique areas where their excellent volumetric efficiency and rugged construction are essential. Today, we are adapting this technology to the inflation of terrestrial balloons. The following timeline summarizes the development history of these generators from a terrestrial application perspective:

  • 2011: Initial Air Force Phase I SBIR funding for MALRD (Miniature Air-Launched Rawinsonde and Dropsonde): gas generation for a balloon-borne radiosonde launched from a flare cartridge
  • 2014: DARPA funding for scaled-up generators
  • 2017: NASA Phase I SBIR funding for HIAD inflation
  • 2018: NASA Phase II SBIR funding for HIAD inflation
  • 2019: NASA Announcement of Collaborative Opportunity (ACO) award to complete environmental testing of the hydrogen generators; 250 normal liter and 5000 normal liter versions were delivered
  • 2020: Navy funding for scaleup of gas generators
  • 2021: NASA Phase I SBIR funding for improved gas generators
  • 2022: Navy 6000 liter balloon inflation
  • 2022: NASA Phase II SBIR funding for improved gas generators
  • 2022: NASA IDIQ award for gas generators for Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerators

  • The advancement of the generator design has resulted in a hydrogen generator which is not only useful in space but can also be applied in the most demanding terrestrial applications, including balloon inflation in remote areas, unattended balloon inflation, and deployment of balloons from launch sites not on terra firma.

    2023 Anasphere, Inc.