by Beata Mostafavi | The Flint Journal
Tuesday August 26, 2008, 8:24 PM
John W. Adkisson | The Flint Journal
Antonio Reis tests a fuel cell apparatus while working for Global Energy Innovations to research fuel cell technologies Tuesday at Kettering University. Global Energy Innovations is the first company to research fuel cells in Kettering's new Fuel Cell and Advanced Technologies Commercialization incubator. "It's good that Kettering's getting on board," said Reis. "I think Kettering's doing a good job of helping our country reach the goal of hydrogen and fuel cells as being a part of our energy plan."
FLINT, Michigan -- In a basement lab of the Mott Engineering and Science Center at Kettering University, Andrew Snyder and Antonio Reis test a fuel cell that could someday help power diesel trucks. The engineers are working full time for Global Energy Innovations -- the first company to do fuel cell research in Kettering's one-year-old Fuel Cell and Advanced Technologies Commercialization Incubator. "The fuel cell incubator is giving us a place to do this research," said Snyder, 23, a Kettering alum. "I think the incubator is giving Flint a better image in terms of taking a step towards a greener future." GEI, a Kettering-run spin-off company, marks what some Kettering officials say is a progressive step for getting on the ground floor of fuel cell research here. The hope is that the incubator, part of Kettering's fuel cell center, will recruit new and emerging technologies and companies.
It's part of a bigger picture goal to expand Genesee County's technology-based business community and spur new jobs and economic growth in the area. On a recent afternoon, Snyder and Reis tested the third fuel cell they have designed so far for GEI's project. By later this year, they will present a prototype of how a regular engine could be replaced with a fuel cell, which would make electricity more efficiently and reduce emissions. It could be commercialized and used to support energy needs or back-up power. Hydrogen fuel cells convert oxygen and hydrogen into water to produce electricity. Snyder said the primary target for this type of technology is the trucking industry but could be branched out to other uses, including mobile homes and boats. "It's a more efficient process," he said. "I personally think efficiency is a step in the right direction of replacing fossil fuels."
Administrators say this type of cutting edge research gives Kettering a role in making fuel cells and hydrogen become a part of the country's energy plan. K. Joel Berry, director for the Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integration -- in which the incubator is housed -- hopes more businesses make use of the incubator space and resources in the future.
"The entire thrust of the proposal for this three years ago was that Kettering could spur economic development for mid-Michigan through the integration of education and technology," he said. "Our goal at Kettering is to encourage more student spin-off companies and faculty spin-off companies. Hopefully those companies will grow in areas surrounding Kettering and stay in Flint and stay in Michigan."
Meanwhile, the fuel cell center has had major research programs since it opened in 2005, including ones sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Defense. The center has also sponsored programs to educate pre-college students about sustainability, fuel cells, wind power and solar energy. "The center is moving towards its goals in terms of education, research and economic development," Berry said. "Those are the three things it was formed to do."