|John Van Zee is director of the National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Fuel Cells.|
Creating a greener environment and economy, while making our nation more energy independent—that's the focus of pioneering alternative energy research being pursued by University of South Carolina scientists.
At the vanguard of hydrogen fuel cell and other Future Fuels research, University faculty—along with industry and government researchers —are developing alternative energy sources for cars, homes, and even Segways and scoreboards.
In summer 2008, a new hydrogen fuel cell-powered bus will make its service debut in Columbia, working as part of the local transit authority's and University's bus fleets. A year of service, testing, and demonstration for the bus will culminate in the National Hydrogen Association's annual conference in Columbia in spring 2009.
The University is a leader in using clean energy sources on campus, from its bio-diesel-fueled shuttle buses to a new biomass gasification plant that burns wood chips rather than costly natural gas to heat campus buildings.
Home to the nation's only National Science Foundation-funded Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Fuel Cells, the University partners with more than 15 private industries on fuel cell research, including General Motors, Boeing, BASF, John Deere, LG Electronics, and the Savannah River National Laboratory.
The University also has attracted two talented fuel cell researchers in Kenneth Reifsnider and Brian Benicewicz. Reifsnider, a member of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering, left the Connecticut Global Fuel Cell Center at the University of Connecticut to direct South Carolina's new Center of Economic Excellence in Solid Oxide Fuel Cells.
Benicewicz, also an expert in nanotechnology, will join the South Carolina faculty in fall 2008 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. He will hold the endowed chair at the Center of Economic Excellence for Polymer Nanocomposite Research and will build on the University's existing partnership with BASF through his own connections to the chemical industry giant.
The University's Department of Chemical Engineering is conducting research supported by more than $6 million in competitive funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. Promising breakthroughs, including 3-D computer design of fuel cells and structures and development of new materials for fuel cell components, already have resulted.
Many of the nation's top researchers in Future Fuels are South Carolina faculty members, including Ken Reifsnider, director of the new Solid Oxide Fuel Cell program. Alternative energy researchers will be among the first to work in the University's exciting Innovista research district. Innovista's Horizon Center, scheduled for completion in fall 2008, will be home to a University building devoted to Future Fuels research on hydrogen storage, distribution, and fuel cell development.
More 'Great' News:
The New York Times in early 2007 quoted national fuel cell experts who hailed South Carolina as a leader in building the nation's hydrogen economy. (Details)
The State newspaper in Columbia reported in 2007 a three-part series on the economic impact of hydrogen development and the University's leadership role. (Details.)
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