In January, SERC submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation to expand our work in hydrogen education with the goal of reaching a national audience. Working with proposal partners at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Michigan Technological University in Houghton, MI, and San Francisco State University, we proposed to create a new “Teaching Energy Concepts with Hydrogen” (TECH2) project. This project would build on our recently completed (see January 2012 post) three year Hydrogen Energy in Engineering Education (H2E3) curriculum in which we worked with California universities in both the CSU and UC systems. The proposed TECH2 project would reach nearly 5,000 freshman engineering students across the country.
The HSU Hydrogen Fueling Station high-pressure upgrade is underway. The principal design work is complete and all major equipment has been ordered. The new high-pressure compressor should arrive at HSU any day now. HSU Plant Operations will begin work to expand the east block wall and run new electrical service to accommodate the new compressor. Once Plant Operations is finished, SERC engineers will begin plumbing the high-pressure hydrogen lines that make up the new dispensing system. Testing and commissioning of the upgrade is targeted to begin in early spring.
This article was written by Brett Selvig and Ryan Dunne
As part of the Hydrogen Energy in Engineering Education project, SERC facilitated internships at Protonex Technology Corporation for the summer of 2011 for two students. After submitting resumes and being interviewed over the phone, we were selected for the ten week positions. Our initial hesitation about leaving our friends and familiar nook in Arcata for Massachusetts was soon outweighed by excitement about getting to work with cutting edge fuel cell technology.
SERC engineers Greg Chapman and Marc Marshall recently traveled to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to deliver a custom-built fuel cell test station to Professor Tariq Shamim at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. The test station, built using SERC’s new compact, portable form factor, took less than a day to uncrate and prepare for use. Greg and Marc spent the remainder of their visit training Professor Shamim, his colleague Professor Mohamed I. H. Ali, and graduate student Abishek Raj in the use of the test station.
Since 2009, SERC’s Hydrogen Energy in Engineering Education (H2E3) project, with financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has produced over 50 hydrogen experiment kits that have been made available on loan to engineering departments at University of California and California State University campuses. Each kit includes an electrolyzer for generating hydrogen, a fuel cell for generating electricity with the hydrogen, and instruments for making measurements of system efficiency. SERC has developed a set of lab activities that incorporate the kit.
We are excited to announce that the Hydrogen Technology and Energy Curriculum (HyTEC) project’s high school chemistry module titled, Investigating Alternative Energy: Hydrogen & Fuel Cells was published by project partner Lab-Aids, Inc. in March 2011 (see the cover, below). The module is comprised of six activities and introduces students to hydrogen and fuel cells in the context of energy for transportation.
The publication of the module is the culmination of six years of hard work between SERC and Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS). There have been many meetings, teacher training workshops, and iterations with Barbara Nagle and her colleagues at LHS. It’s rewarding to see our curriculum published and available to high school students across the country.
On March 10th of this year, the second Stack-Outside-the-Box™ (SOtB™) that SERC has produced was delivered to Southwestern Community College in Sylva, North Carolina. Receiving the unit was Ron Poor, head of the Electronics Engineering Technology program. Last year, seeking to include the concepts of hydrogen based renewable energy in the curriculum, Ron secured a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the purchase of this bench-top fuel cell power system. “We’ve never seen Ron so excited,” the electronics and computer technology students said when the SOtB™ arrived; they were quoted in the hometown Sylva Herald newspaper.
This is the first director’s column written in my new office in our new Schatz lab. It’s just wonderful to be in this modern, well-designed building that will certainly increase our productivity and has already made us proud. You can read about some of the details and see a picture in the building update in this issue.
But while the Schatz Center has been upgraded, the U.S. hydrogen and fuel cell technology program has fallen from sight. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has suggested that the hydrogen program be zeroed out in the next DOE budget. There is plenty of funding for battery research and plug-in hybrids, but not a penny for fuel cell vehicles. Secretary Chu tried to do this in last year’s budget cycle but was rebuffed by a strong coalition of legislators who insisted that the funding be restored.
SERC recently acquired a brand new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle from UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC). The smog-free vehicle is a 2009 Toyota Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle (FCHV-adv), and as the manufacturer states, “It is one of the most technologically-advanced vehicles on the planet.” SERC is helping the TSRC road test and acquire operational data for the vehicle.
On November 12, SERC’s Hydrogen Energy in Engineering Education (H2E3) project achieved a major milestone with the delivery of a fuel cell test station and a dozen benchtop fuel cell/electrolyzer kits to University of California, Berkeley. Director Peter Lehman, faculty research associate Eileen Cashman, and H2E3 project manager Richard Engel made the trek to UCB to hand off the newly completed equipment, all built in-house at SERC.
While at UCB, Peter and Richard demonstrated the test station and presented a well-received lecture on fuel cells to nearly 200 undergrad and grad students in a course on energy and society taught by Dr. Dan Kammen of UCB’s Energy and Resources Group.