RIT launches partnership with fuel cell industry targeting life-cycle strategies

June 22, 2004

The potential use of fuel cell technology as a mainstream energy source takes a significant step forward with word today of a new fuel cell industry partnership spearheaded by Rochester Institute of Technology.

The announcement comes during the fourth annual Congressional Fuel Cell Expo in Washington, D.C. RIT's Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies (CIMS) is developing the partnership through the U.S. Fuel Cell Council and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The goal of this new effort is to provide for the logistics, guidance and sharing of information associated with the development of direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC) for the portable electronics market, particularly as it pertains to end-of-life strategies.

Growing at a rapid pace, the portable electronics market is expected to exceed two billion users by 2007. DMFCs, which mix methanol and air to provide an uninterrupted power supply, are being designed to help power this growing demand. While offering the potential for greater efficiency over existing portable power supply products, the developing technology still requires an extensive level of research.

"There has not yet been a full evaluation of the environmental and economic impacts of DMFCs, from manufacture to disposal," explains Nabil Nasr, director of RIT's Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies. "Evaluating the optimum end-of-life strategy will enable the industry to identify options for reducing life-cycle operating costs, improve product performance, and prepare their product platforms to be more sustainable in a robust fuel cell market."

Working with the Sustainability Working Group from the U.S. Fuel Council, CIMS will provide a forecast for DMFC technology, conduct analysis on the environmental impact and life-cycle economics, develop a reverse logistics model, and provide recommendation for the optimum end-of-life strategy.

"CIMS is well positioned, due to its analytical capabilities and industry reach, to work with the U.S. Fuel Cell Council's Sustainability Working Group," states Nasr. "Over the past two years, in partnership with industry and the Environmental Protection Agency, CIMS has developed an analytical sustainable design tool that enables engineers to evaluate the total life cycle of a fuel cell."

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Energy has also recognized CIMS's leadership in the research and development of alternative energy sources. Earlier this year, the agency provided funding for the creation of a hydrogen-technology learning center--one of only four such centers to be established nationally. The goal of the hydrogen-technology learning center is to serve as an educational resource in establishing a vision for a fuel cell economy.

A final report on life-cycle strategies for DMFCs, including a list of industry guidelines, will be released next April. Project results and recommendations will also be disseminated through participation in fuel cell workshops and conferences.
Background: The Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies (CIMS) at Rochester Institute of Technology exists to increase the competitiveness of manufacturers through applied technology and training. Established in 1992, CIMS provides technology and workforce development solutions that strengthen industrial clients' ability to compete in the global marketplace. CIMS represents a dynamic collaboration of in-house technical experts, as well as academic, industry and government resources.

Major initiatives sponsored by CIMS include the National Center for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery (NCR3), the System Modernization and Sustainment Center, the Sustainable Systems Research Center, the Center for Excellence in Lean Enterprise, the Manufacturing Technologies Program, the Imaging Products Laboratory and the Occupational Safety and Ergonomics Excellence Program.

Rochester Institute of Technology

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