Fuel cell research at Rensselaer will get a significant boost thanks to an unusual package received recently by Brian Benicewicz, professor of chemistry and director of the New York State Center for Polymer Synthesis at Rensselaer. The center is working with Celanese Ventures GmbH (a division of Celanese AG of Germany), the state of New York, and Plug Power Inc. to develop a more economical polymer membrane for use in PEM (proton exchange membrane) fuel cells.
Fuel cells have emerged as a promising new technology in helping to meet the worlds energy needs. They are electrochemical devices that combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electric power without combustion. Polymer membranes play a critical role in the devices.
The Rensselaer research is going well so well that Celanese recently delivered nearly 200 pounds of a special monomer used to create polybenzimidazole (PBI), the polymer Benicewicz is studying for fuel cell use. The monomer is valued at more than $400,000.
Our ability to prepare new polymers is an underlying strength of our research program, and we utilize this key monomer in all of the synthesis work, says Benicewicz. In the past, Celanese has supplied us with sufficient quantities of this monomer on an as-needed basis. The company decided to send us enough to ensure a constant supply.
Benicewicz says that the monomer is available commercially, but not in the quality and purity that is available to Celanese. He notes, If we were to buy the equivalent quantity of monomer from a standard supply house which only sells it in very small amounts it would cost more than $400,000.
This represents generous support of the program and a vote of confidence by Celanese, which also has contributed $2 million to the R&D program for fuel cell research. I have been asked by many researchers about our supply of monomer, since it is well-known that the monomer is expensive and difficult to obtain in high purity, states Benicewicz. Our arrangement with Celanese is a huge advantage to our work since other research groups, worldwide, do not have access to such supplies.
The availability of the large amount of this key polymer building block will allow researchers to go beyond normal laboratory-scale work, and permit the research of the Center for Polymer Synthesis to make more rapid progress.
To carry out the aggressive research agenda outlined in The Rensselaer Plan, Rensselaer must recruit scholars of international stature leaders in key fields whose pioneering research fosters the best kind of learning environment for undergraduate and graduate students.
Rensselaer is mindful of the extraordinary competition it faces in recruiting these faculty, particularly in the burgeoning areas of information technology and biotechnology. The Institutes success in doing so will result, in large measure, from the generosity of alumni, friends, and corporations who lend their financial support to these efforts. In the last several months, several leading alumni and friends many of them Rensselaer trustees have made major financial commitments to support faculty endowments. Momentum is building, as are endowments to support these critical appointments.
In information technology, Kathleen and Paul Severino 69 are supporting the Wellfleet Future Chips Constellation at Rensselaer, named for the company Paul Severino co-founded in 1986. In making this gift, Severino, a trustee and co-chair of the capital campaign steering committee, wanted to ensure the success of The Rensselaer Plan that was developed by President Jackson with the Rensselaer community. Essential to that success is an increase in spending in focal research areas. According to Severino, Investing in the future chips constellation is a strategic investment in our long-term future as a world-class research university. Last fall, E. Fred Schubert, a pioneering semiconductor researcher, was appointed senior chair of this constellation.
In biotechnology, John Broadbent Jr. 59 will support a senior chair in biocatalysis and metabolic engineering, one of Rensselaers critical constellation focal areas. At press time, Robert J. Linhardt, a leading carbohydrate chemist, was named to the position.
According to Broadbent, also a Rensselaer trustee, Rensselaers strategic initiative in biotechnology is a vital component of its effort to attain recognition as a university with global reach and global impact. Biocatalysis and metabolic engineering extends the Institutes strengths into an area of biotechnology with significant commercial applications.
Last year, Trustee Tom Baruch 60 agreed to support the Richard Baruch M.D. Career Development Professor (named in honor of his father), also in biocatalysis and metabolic engineering. In addition, Rensselaer is the recipient of an anonymous donation to support a senior chairholder in biochemistry. Also last year, New York philanthropist Morris Marty Silverman provided the support needed to create a constellation in tissue engineering.
Ensuring that the Institutes faculty recruitment spans the globe, Trustee Jackson Tai 72 and his wife, Kay, have provided support for a senior chair with Asian connections, to be placed in a constellation focal area.
The first constellation endowment received was from Gail and Jeffrey Kodosky 70, who are supporting a faculty constellation in physics, information technology, and entrepreneurship. In addition, Judith and Thomas Iovino 73 have agreed to support a career development professorship in civil engineering.
In the words of Baruch, there is an absolute revitalization at Rensselaer, an institution with a sense of purpose that will play a major role in changing our lives for the better. These gifts will ensure Rensselaers place in doing just that.
|Rensselaer Magazine: March 2003|
|President's View||Your Mail||From the Archives||Hawk Talk||Class Notes Features|
|Front Page||At Rensselaer||Milestones|
|In Memoriam||Making a Difference||Staying Connected|
|Rensselaer Home Page | RPInfo | AlumServ Home Page|
Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute.
|© 2003 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. All rights reserved worldwide.|
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), 110 8th St., Troy, NY 12180. (518) 276-6000
Web site design by the Rensselaer Office of Communications.
Contact Jane Van Ryan, Assistant Vice President, Office of Communications.
Questions? Comments? Please contact us.