Event to explore the next 'big thing' in fuel cell technology

Oct 10, 2003

As a means of increasing public awareness of fuel cells, Kettering's research into this important area and the positive impact this technology may have on our lives, the University's Library will offer a free two-day event titled "The Next Big Thing: Fuel Cell Technology."

Watery eyes. Constant sneezing. Scratchy throat. Headaches, congestion.

Symptoms of a cold or flu, right?

Maybe not. In fact, these are often the symptoms of people affected by pollution, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, www.epa.gov). Ground level or "bad" ozone is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight. Some of the major sources of NOx and VOC, the EPA reports on its website, include industrial facilities, electric utilities, gasoline vapors and vehicle exhaust. Getting a whiff of these fumes can often make anyone start sneezing.

Michigan is not immune to pollution, especially the lower half and southeast portion of the state, which is home to the Big Three automakers. More importantly, thousands upon thousands of drivers stream into and out of the Detroit area via the I-75 corridor, and on a warm summer day it's not uncommon to see the greenish haze of smog lingering over the metro area just before sunset, a physical manifestation of pollution created by vehicle and industrial exhaust.


"Next Big Thing:
Fuel Cell Technology"
Nov. 18, 7 p.m.
Video and discussion
Nov. 19, 12:30 p.m.
Tony Prophet '82
tours, and more

But over the past several years, researchers at Kettering University have studied the potential incorporation and use of fuel cells in vehicles and in other applications such as appliances while gaining national recognition for their efforts (http://fuelcells.kettering.edu). Fuel cells, which typically do not introduce harmful emissions into the environment and operate using a catalyst to convert hydrogen and oxygen into water to produce electricity and heat, could potentially replace the combustion engine as the primary power source in automotive vehicles and in other devices in the coming years.

With the opening of the school's new C.S. Mott Engineering and Science Center and new state-of-the-art laboratory space available for the institution's Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integration, Kettering's fuel cell research efforts have become more intensive and recognizable throughout the Michigan community and in some areas of the United States. Examples of this important recognition have come in the form of a $100,000 grant in May 2003 from NextEnergy, a Detroit-based non-profit corporation comprised of a set of comprehensive actions to advance the understanding, research, development, commercialization and manufacture of Alternative Energy Technologies (AET) in Michigan and the nation. Additionally, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm's July press conference in Flint included an announcement in which she pledged $500,000 to Kettering's fuel cell efforts. Finally, Dr. Jim Gover, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Dr. K. Joel Berry, professor and head of the Mechanical Engineering Dept., and Etim Ubong, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering, presented papers related to the incorporation of fuel cell technology at the Electrical Insulation Conference/Electrical Manufacturing & Coil Winding September 2003 Exposition in Indianapolis, which brought additional national renown to Kettering's fuel cell efforts.

As a means of increasing public awareness of fuel cells, Kettering's research into this important area and the positive impact this technology may have on our lives, the University's Library will offer a free two-day event titled "The Next Big Thing: Fuel Cell Technology." This event will increase the public's perception and understanding of the science and technological transformation available through the development of fuel cells. As Kettering's research in this field increases, the library will play a pivotal role in the research, teaching and learning functions of fuel cell technology through its resources and professional staff.

Charles Hanson, director of Kettering's Library and Scharchburg Archives, believes such a program would make a lasting impact on the Kettering and local community. "The library is pleased to present this program and we are especially fortunate to have Tony Prophet with us that evening to share his expertise on the development of fuel cells," Hanson said. "The library is committed to the teaching, learning, and research functions at Kettering University. This program will provide a link to the library's resources about fuel cell technology. This presentation will be a stimulating, thought-provoking event, a memorable educational experience for the Kettering community and local community as well."

For Berry, this program provides yet another way to educate and inform the public of the potential impact and benefits of fuel cell technology. "I am very thrilled our library staff recognizes the future of clean energy and fuel cells," he explained. "Additionally, they should be commended for their efforts to educate and to excite the public regarding this energy source for the next generation. The participation of Tony Prophet also adds credibility to the potential of fuel cells as an alternative energy source for stationary, automotive, marine, aerospace, toys, laptops, cameras and numerous other consumer applications."

The specific program will consist of a video on fuel cells in Kettering's McKinnon Theater from 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18. Berry will serve as teacher-scholar and lead discussions with participants on fuel cell technology. Wednesday, Nov. 19, Tony Prophet, who is vice president of Sales and Marketing at United Technologies Corp. (UTC) in the area of Power and Fuel Cells, as well as a 1982 graduate of Kettering/GMI, will participate in a student presentation at 12:30, lunch with invited faculty and staff at 1:45, tour Kettering's new C.S. Mott Engineering and Science Center at 3 p.m., and end his day with a reception at the home of Dr. John with students and faculty at 5:30 p.m.

Prophet is currently championing the expansion of UTC's distributed generation offering beyond fuel cells. Before joining UTC in 2001, he was founding president of Honeywell Power Systems, which was established in 1997. The focus of Honeywell centered on commercializing micro turbine technology, which was later sold to General Electric in 2001. Prophet's other positions at Honeywell included vice president of New Business for Aerospace Equipment Systems and included the Honeywell PEM and Solide Oxide Fuel Cell technology programs. Prior to Honeywell, he was a partner at Booz, Allen and Hamilton, where he led operations and strategy work for their aerospace and airline clients. He also co-founded the company's Los Angeles office and served as officer in charge of the firm's work with the Boeing Company. He holds a bachelor's of science degree in Industrial Engineering from Kettering/GMI and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, which he attended as a GM Fellow.

Hanson said that with the current research undertaken by the ME Dept. in the area of fuel cells, combined with Prophet's experience in the power industry, will make this two-day event a memorable experience for all participants. "Prophet is at the forefront of this field and is considered an expert by many in the industry," he said. "And with the current fuel cell initiatives taking place here on campus through the school's Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integration, the program will offer the community an in-depth, intriguing look at an area of technology that will one day transform the way vehicles and perhaps household appliances are powered."

Partners for this year's program include Friends of the Kettering University Library and Scharchburg Archives (FOLA), the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), the Office of Women Student Affairs, the Women's Resource Center, the Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integration, and Kettering's Student Government. Participants may enjoy refreshments and admission is free. To learn more about "The Next Big Thing: Fuel Cell Technology," contact the Kettering University Library at (810) 762-7814.

Written by Gary J. Erwin
(810) 762-9538