Because of the tragedy last week at Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) there has been much interest by the media and others on what this college is all about. One aspect that has been largely overlooked by the media, however, is that as the nation’s 9th ranked public undergraduate program, Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering has been heavily involved in research on hydrogen autos and the hydrogen economy.
In 2001, the engineering students from the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team of Virginia Tech (HEVT) and faculty converted a Chevy Suburban to run on hydrogen gas using Honeywell 60 kw PEM fuel cell and using hybrid electric technology as well.
In 2002, the HEVT students and faculty once again converted a Ford Explorer XLT using a Honeywell fuel cell with a 60 kw General Electric motor and received kudos from the Argonne National Laboratory at the FutureTruck competition for their efforts.
In 2004, Virginia Tech held the conference “Investigating the Hydrogen Economy” in which such notables as Jeremy Rifkin lectured on the components needed to build the infrastructure to support a hydrogen-based economy.
Currently, Virginia Tech is researching methods to produce hydrogen using supramolecular complexes. These complexes are catalysts that use light energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen much more easily than current processes.
In addition, the Virginia Tech Center for Automotive Fuel Cell Systems also has two labs that are researching and developing fuel cells for use in future vehicles. Both the Automotive Fuel Cell Systems Lab and Ware Lab are testing and evaluating fuel cell materials, modeling, subsystems and system integration.
It’s important to honor those who has fallen last week at Virginia Tech along with family, friends and other loved ones. It is also important to acknowledge the good work others at Virginia Tech have achieved and continue to achieve in promoting technical advances that make life better for all of us going forward.