Case Study

Fuel Cell Research Center's Innovations to Promote Sustainable Energy Sources

Published: August 1, 2000

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The energy source that powered the Space Shuttle, Apollo and Gemini spacecraft might one day operate your portable phone, your car and your neighborhood's electric power plant.

This source -- the fuel cell -- is a primary focus of a new research center at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The Center for Innovative Fuel Cell and Battery Technologies will take a multidisciplinary approach to fuel cell and battery-related research, said center director Dr. David Parekh.

"At Georgia Tech, we have a broad range of expertise in this field. The center will serve as a catalyst for revolutionary advances through world-class research integrated across disciplines and spanning from fundamental discovery to application-specific prototypes," Parekh said.

Groundbreaking research in these areas will move the world toward more sustainable energy sources. Additionally, recent research at Georgia Tech on fuel cells and related electrochemical devices has led to the invention of several processes that enable waste streams from commercial chemical manufacturing to be profitably recycled to provide fresh feed to the manufacturing plants.

A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that operates much like a battery. It combines hydrogen fuel with oxygen to produce electricity and heat, releasing water as a byproduct. Fuel cells are a clean, environmentally friendly, versatile, reliable and efficient power source.

Batteries, of course, are familiar to most of us, as are their advantages as compact, portable and self-contained power sources. But this recognized technology also can benefit from research advancements in rapid charging, measuring the charge a battery contains at any given time, and development of new types, sizes and configurations of batteries to run cars and other devices.

Georgia Tech's center will focus on fuel cell and battery technology for wireless telecommunications, ultra-low emission vehicles and distributed stationary power supplies. The new center is developing new integrated facilities for development and testing -- such as a power cell testing laboratory unveiled in March -- and also will hold workshops on fuel cell technology.

Engineers and scientists from the Georgia Tech Research Institute, Georgia Tech's School of Materials Science and Engineering, School of Mechanical Engineering, School of Chemical Engineering, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the National Electric Energy Testing, Research and Applications Center (NEETRAC) based at Georgia Tech will participate in the center. Key industry partners will be invited to join the center to share their technology needs and collaborate on open and proprietary research projects.

For more information on the Georgia Tech center, see