University of South Carolina

Future Fuels at Carolina: much more than hydrogen

Carolina's seven major academic initiatives will be celebrated during the week of each home football game this season. The fourth -- in the week leading up to the Carolina vs. Kentucky game Oct. 10 -- is the University's research efforts in alternative fuels.

When University mascot Cocky zips around the football field this Saturday on a Segway, he can thank Carolina researchers for the hydrogen fuel cell that helps to power the two-wheeled scooter.

The University’s leadership in hydrogen fuel cell research is well established:

• Carolina is home to the nation’s only industry/university cooperative fuel cell research center, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and industry partners.

• The University has been awarded several Centers of Economic Excellence to fund additional hydrogen fuel cell-related research

• The National Hydrogen Association selected Columbia as its national conference site earlier this year in large part because of Carolina’s research and partnerships with industry and government in developing hydrogen as a commercial energy carrier.

But Carolina’s research in alternative energy goes well beyond fuel cells. America’s energy challenges are complex, and solutions will be equally complex.

That's why scientists at Carolina are focusing their research efforts on several future fuels: hydrogen, PEM, and solid-oxide fuel cells; next-generation battery development; nuclear energy; photovoltaic cells; sustainable carbon usage; biomass; and energy conservation and efficiency. All of these are interconnected and could be part of an overall solution to provide plentiful energy without contributing further to the factors influencing climate change.

In addition to conducting research on plant species suitable for biomass energy production, the University has built, with Johnson Controls, a biomass energy plant. The generating plant uses a next-generation gasification process that superheats wood waste to release gas that is ignited to produce steam and electricity. The Columbia campus anticipates annual energy cost savings of about $2 million.

Innovative energy research is crucial not only to America's sustainable economic development and well being but also to the ecological future of the planet. Scientists at Carolina aim to be at the forefront in that important work.

As part of Future Fuels-related events this week:

• Cocky will ride a hydrogen fuel cell-equipped Segway at halftime during the Carolina vs. Kentucky football game Oct. 10 at Williams-Brice Stadium

a hydrogen-powered bus -- part of the Federal Transit Administration’s Fuel Cell Bus Program -- will be parked near the stadium on game day. The 37-passenger bus is five tons lighter than a regular bus and is powered by two 16 kW fuel cells.

Posted: 10/02/09 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 10/26/09 @ 3:21 PM | Permalink