January 2007

Message from the Director

I was very honored last month when the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) asked me to represent them with a presentation to the United States Council of Automotive Research (USCAR) Fuel Cell Tech Team. USCAR is the umbrella organization that coordinates research for DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors.

Freedom Car Fuel Cell Project logoThis was an important meeting where DOE, in concert with USCAR, discusses upcoming research plans in the areas of proton exchange membrane fuel cell technologies and applications for America's future fuel cell cars and trucks. The meeting actually helps determine the priorities for Department of Energy research programs for the coming year.

Asking me to speak on their behalf shows strong recognition of the important work we and the High Temperature Membrane Working Group, which UCF leads, are doing to make fuel cell cars a reality. I worked closely with DOE fuel cell program leaders on the presentation to talk to the auto makers about the nation’s research efforts to reduce the costs of the raw materials, improve conductivity of the membrane, increase performance and durability of the membrane, and to develop strategies to mitigate membrane degradation.

You may know that we are the only U.S. university that leads a Department of Energy fuel cell program. We coordinate the activities of 12 universities and research organizations in the $19 million High Temperature, Low Relative Humidity Membrane development effort. In this capacity, we closely coordinate with DOE and USCAR the performance, durability and cost targets for the fuel cell membrane.

This is a very important research area for the future use of fuel cells in vehicles. The membrane is the key component of the Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell that will power the world’s fuel cell vehicles.

In our work directing the overall DOE membrane program, we coordinate a variety of research projects on polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells. Those cells typically operate at temperatures no higher than 60 to 80 degrees Celsius, but if they reach 120 degrees Celsius and about 25 percent relative humidity for transportation, they would yield significant energy benefits. Heat rejection is easier at higher temperatures, which would allow use of smaller automobile radiators.

The bottom line of all this is that these new membranes must be developed before fuel cell-powered cars can be in everyone’s garage.

UCF and FSEC have already played a key role in establishing Florida as the home of groundbreaking research efforts in zero-energy homes, solar electricity and solar energy, and this work is a logical step to making the 'Sunshine State' the home of fuel-cell activities as well. Through our research, we hope to achieve energy independence for the 'Sunshine State'.

Signature of James M. Fenton

Click here for a copy of the Powerpoint presentation.