October 2007

10.25.2007
University unveils Segway powered by a fuel cell
(full article)

10.9.2007
Obama: 'Hydrogen holds promise' as energy source
(full article)


October 25, 2007
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University unveils Segway powered by a fuel cell

Coming soon to a venue near you: a fuel cell-powered Segway.

The Segway may look like a mode of transportation straight out of "The Jetsons" television program, but it is being used throughout the world by individuals, business, government and police.

Now, riding the Segway may become even more convenient, thanks to a project under way at the University of South Carolina's College of Engineering and Computing. Carolina researchers unveiled a fuel cell-powered Segway Thursday (Oct. 25) to demonstrate how a Segway, usually powered by lithium-ion batteries that have to be re-charged, can have a longer ride time.

"We wanted to see if we could extend the range of the Segway's power by adding a fuel cell," said Dr. John Weidner, a professor of chemical engineering who developed the fuel cell-powered Segway with fellow chemical engineer Chuck Holland.

With $50,000 from the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge, Weidner and Holland put fuel cells on two Segways. The university gave one of the Segways to the City of Columbia for the police department; the other is being used by researchers and ultimately will have a home in the Horizon Center of Innovista, the university's research district.

The fuel cell, about the size of a soft-drink can, is expected to increase the amount of time that a Segway can be used by 20 - 90 percent, Weidner said.

"For a police department, that might mean that the Segway could be used during an entire shift, rather than two or three hours," he said, "and it doesn’t take too long to re-charge the canisters."

Dr. Mark Becker, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said the fuel-cell project is a good example of what the university is doing to translate research into knowledge and apply that knowledge to commercial products.

"This particular project is really an excellent example of efforts by the university for sustainability," he said. "It's no secret that future fuels are a major research initiative at Carolina. This is an exciting innovation."

Weidner and Holland also have created a company Hydrogen Hybrid Mobility that will test new uses of hydrogen energy.

The next step for the company, Holland said, is to conduct performance tests for the fuel cell-powered Segways and then work toward commercialization of their product.

Commercialization isn't far into the future. A tour company recently contacted the researchers about their Segway adaptation. The company, which gives two tours a day, found that they could extend the number of tours to three if they had a fuel-cell powered Segway.

"They could increase their profit by 50 percent," Holland said. "The future for this product is promising."

The University of South Carolina is recognized as a leader in alternative-fuels research. The College of Engineering and Computing is home to the Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Fuel Cells, the nation's only fuel-cell center established by the National Science Foundation.

Earlier this year, the university named Dr. Kenneth Reifsnider, one of the world's pre-eminent fuel-cell researchers, to lead its solid-oxide fuel-cell research initiative and to pursue ways to apply the promising energy conversion devices to benefit society.

Reifsnider, the former director of the Connecticut Global Fuel Cell Center at the University of Connecticut, is the director of Carolina's Solid Oxide Fuel Program and a professor of mechanical engineering. He is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering, making the University of South Carolina the state's only university with an active faculty member of the prestigious academy.

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  October 9, 2007
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Obama: 'Hydrogen holds promise' as energy source

Though he failed to mention it during a major energy policy speech Monday, presidential hopeful Barack Obama said "hydrogen holds promise" in the future of alternative fuels.

Giving an address in Portsmouth, N.H., Obama announced a plan that includes implementing a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gasses; investing $150 billion over the next decade to develop new energy sources and create new jobs; improving energy efficiency by 2030; and reducing the United States' dependence on foreign oil 35 percent by 2030.

In a conference call afterward with reporters from early voting states, Obama said hydrogen research would be included in the $150 billion he proposed for research and development.

"So far, we don't have a magic bullet when it comes to energy - solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, hydrogen ... All of them have great potential, but so far there have been various technological limits," Obama said. "That's part of the reason we want to make sure we're spurring the kind of investment and innovation and experimentation throughout the economy on all fronts, and hydrogen certainly would be included in that mix."

Hydrogen power has found advocates across South Carolina, including U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis in the Upstate, and researchers at Clemson University and the University of South Carolina.

This state created and is funding the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance, and in March 2007 hired Shannon Baxter-Clemmons to run that organization. Baxter-Clemmons previously had worked on California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Hydrogen Highway initiative.

A $10 million Hydrogen Research Center opened in Aiken in 2006, and the state Legislature has approved $15 million over three years to support private hydrogen research and development efforts. This year's funding was pulled, however, when an anticipated budget surplus didn't materialize.

Plans are also in the works to bring a hydrogen-fueled bus and a hydrogen fueling station to Columbia.

Fred Humes, chairman of the S.C. Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance, said another hydrogen-related announcement will be made today in Aiken.

"A lot of good things are happening," Humes said.

"Hydrogen is part of the solution. I'm not sure it is the entire solution. We're talking decades now. It'll be interesting," he said.

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