June 10, 2005

Hydrogen-powered vehicle research Faculty member wins $600,000 federal grant

by Pete Rosenbery


Qingfeng Ge

(PRONOUNCER: Qingfeng Ge is Chen-feng Geh)

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- President Bush wants hydrogen-powered vehicles available to American consumers by 2020, and a researcher at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is contributing to that effort.

Qingfeng Ge, an assistant professor in SIUC's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is receiving a three-year, $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to continue his research into potential on-board vehicular hydrogen storage systems.

Ge's project is one of 17 looking at a variety of issues that involves hydrogen storage. The Department of Energy's highly competitive program awarded 70 hydrogen research projects totaling more than $64 million to universities, industry and national laboratories. Other aspects of the project include looking at hydrogen production and new fuel cell technology.

According to the Department of Energy, the goal is "making hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and refueling stations available, practical and affordable for American consumers by 2020." The initiatives are part of President Bush's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative.

Ge's work, based on computer models, is designed to find a material that can carry hydrogen that incorporates high efficiency, maximum capacity, is easy to use, and inexpensive. The research and development is focusing primarily on affordable on-board storage systems that have the capacity for 300 miles or more between refueling cycles, comparable to current gasoline-driven engines, Ge said.

While some batteries utilize hydrogen as energy carriers, there are currently no on-board hydrogen storage systems available on a practical basis that can compete with fossil-fueled vehicles, Ge said. Hydrogen is clean and generates no harmful emissions.

Ge said he is pleased to be among the researchers selected. He has already published a paper on the subject, and believes that played a role in his proposal receiving funding.

"I've already shown I can do the research I propose to do," he said, noting that he already has some preliminary results from his work, supported by startup funds and faculty seed grants from the University. Ge is also involved with SIUC's Coal Research Center in exploring hydrogen production from coal beds.

The current research "is just the beginning of a very long process" if hydrogen-powered vehicles is a direction the nation chooses to move toward, Ge said.

Establishing relationships with granting organizations and promoting the University as a research institution of high quality are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Ge has been at SIUC since August 2002. Before coming to SIUC, Ge was a research scientist in chemical engineering for nearly four years at the University of Virginia. His experience also includes time as a research associate in physical chemistry at the University of Cambridge and post-doctoral work in physical chemistry at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Ge received his undergraduate, master's and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from Tianjin University in China.