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College of Engineering and Computing

Fuel Cell Technology

The possible uses for fuel cells seem endless - with research constantly generating new capabilities and discoveries. At the University of South Carolina, a team of faculty and students are focused on various aspects of fuel cell research from design and performance to hydrogen storage.

Our Fuel Cell Research Efforts

Six centers and dozens of faculty and graduate students are focused on fuel cell research within the College of Engineering and Computing and throughout UofSC.

Center for Electrochemical Engineering

Director: Branko Popov, Carolina Distinguished Professor, Chemical Engineering

The Center for Electrochemical Engineer­ing received a Department of Energy (DOE) award to develop novel non precious metal catalyst for fuel cells. The goal of the proposed work is to construct and test membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) with different non-precious metallic nanoclusters and to demonstrate the potential to perform at least as good as the conventional Pt catalysts currently in use in MEAs.

Dr. Popov received funding from DOE and National Science Foundation (NSF) for the development of ultra-low loading platinum catalysts for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells. He also received funding from NASA for the devel­opment of advanced regenerative fuel cells.

Center for Fuel Cells

Director: John W. Weidner, professor and chair, Chemical Engineering

The mission of the Center for Fuel Cells is to help industry advance the technology and commercialization of fuel cells by training graduate students and performing research within five areas: 1) fuel cell design; 2) fuel cell performance; 3) hydrogen storage materials, devices, and distribution systems; 4) new catalysts for elec­trodes and hydrogen production and 5) power conditioning and motor design.

HeteroFoaM Center

Director: Kenneth Reifsnider, NAE, professor, Mechanical Engineering

 HeteroFoaMs are heterogeneous functional materials at the heart of energy systems such as fuel cells, batteries and membranes. Their properties and functionality are dependent on their structure, composition, morphology and feature size. The Center’s research objective is to ad­vance the knowledge and understanding base that will allow HeteroFoaMs to be designed and created for use in energy systems. HeteroFoaM technology can then be used to enable clean energy conversion and storage devices such as fuel cells, hydrogen generators, capacitors, batteries and separation membranes.

Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Center of Economic Excellence

Director: Kenneth Reifsnider, NAE, professor, Mechanical Engineering

The Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Center is a faculty cluster and research facility that is dedicated to the science and engineering research and development that is driven by systems for a sustainable society. The group is concerned with new materials, processing, modeling and analysis that supports design for performance and durability of solid oxide fuel cells, electrolyzers and related devices.

Polymer Nanocomposites

SC SmartState Center
Dr. Brian Benicewicz, USC Educational Foundation Distinguished Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Center of Economic Excellence Chair

Dr. Benicewicz's work is focused on the development of new high temperature polymer membranes which has resulted in the commercial development of fuel cell units for homes and portable power devices and is now being extend­ed into hydrogen purification and generation applications.

Strategic Approaches to the Generation of Electricity

SC SmartState Center
Jochen Lauterbach, professor, Chemical Engineering; Center of Economic Excellence Chair

The SmartState Center for Strategic Approaches to the Generation of Electricity (SAGE) focuses on the synthesis and testing of novel functional materials for a wide range of environmental and chemical applications. Research in SAGE includes alternative approaches to traditional power plant processes, such as new coal combustion techniques and the conversion of waste CO2 into chemicals or fuels. Research is also performed on reforming technologies for fuel cell feeds, hydrogen generation and storage, and development of high-temperature corrosion resistant materials.


UofSC Researchers

Additional UofSC Researchers focusing on the study of fuel cells – materials, energy conversion, etc. include the following:

  • Sourav Banerjee, assistant professor, Mechanical Engineering. Material health monitoring, Predictive modeling for coupled multi-physics phenomena, Struc­tural, Biological, Nuclear (e.g. SiC, Graphite etc.) and Semiconductor materials’ characterization at multiple length and time scales using high frequency ultrasonic microscopy, precursor to damage identification in het­erogeneous materials.
  • Fanglin (Frank) Chen, associate professor, Mechanical Engineering. Synthesis and characterization of materi­als for energy conversion and storage, microstructure property relationship, electroceramics and solid state ionic devices, electrochemical performance evaluation, materials and designs for solid oxide fuel cells.
  • Roger Dougal, professor and chair, Electrical Engineering, and site director for the Center for GRid-connected Advanced Power Electronic Systems. Power conversion and storage in fuel cells, batteries and capacitors, as well as power routing and control in microgrids and renew­able energy systems.
  • Yanhai Du, research professor, Mechanical Engineering. Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) and system design, fabrica­tion and characterization, inorganic materials (ceramic, refractory, cement, glass and cermet), new products and fabrication process development.
  • Jason Hattrick-Simpers, assistant professor, Chemical Engineering.  Identification of novel materials and the design of rapid screening measurement techniques for hydrogen storage applications, catalysts for syngas production and coal slagging gasification reactors.
  • Andreas Heyden, assistant professor, Chemical En­gineering. Nanomaterial science and heterogeneous (electro-) catalysis.
  • Kevin Huang, associate professor, Mechanical Engineering. Solid oxide electrochemical cells; storage batteries; gas separation membranes; solid state defect chemistry and electrochemistry.
  • Xinyu Huang, associate professor, Mechanical Engineering. Mechanics and durability of functional and structural composite materials, in particular, composite materials in polymer electrolyte mem­brane fuel cells, solid oxide fuel cells, structural composites and coatings.
  • John R. Monnier, research professor, Chemical Engineering. Design and synthesis of novel bimetal­lic catalysts for use in proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells (e.g., oxygen reduction cathodes, methanol and ethanol oxidation anodes) and PEM electrolyzers.
  • James A. Ritter, Carolina Distinguished Professor, Chemical Engineering. Separation processes, materi­als science and energy storage.
  • Sirivatch Shimpalee, research associate professor, Chemical Engineering. The numerical analyses of fuel cells, ranging from one-dimensional analytical mathematical models to three-dimensional Compu­tational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations.
  • Ralph White, professor and distinguished scientist, Chemical Engineering. Fuel cells, batteries, elec­tro-deposition, corrosion and numerical methods.
  • Xingjian (Chris) Xue, assistant professor, Mechan­ical Engineering. Materials for electrochemical energy conversion and storage, reliability and durability of functional and structural materials, and transport phenomena and electrochemical kinetics.
  • Xiao-Dong Zhou, associate professor, Chemical Engineering. Synthesis, characterization and theoretical understanding of materials and interfaces for energy systems including batteries, fuel cells, capacitors, thermoelectrics and photoelectrochem­istry and fundamental studies of activation of small molecules.


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