Talk about worlds colliding–the University of South Carolina (yes, that USC) unveiled their latest work on a fuel-cell-powered Segway. From USC’s website:
Coming soon to a venue near you: – a fuel cell-powered Segway.
The Segway may look like a mode of transportation straight out of “The Jetsons” television program, but it is being used throughout the world by individuals, business, government and police.
Now, riding the Segway may become even more convenient, thanks to a project under way at the University of South Carolina’s College of Engineering and Computing](http://www.engr.sc.edu/). Carolina researchers unveiled a fuel cell-powered Segway Thursday (Oct. 25) to demonstrate how a Segway, usually powered by lithium-ion batteries that have to be re-charged, can have a longer “ride time.”
“We wanted to see if we could extend the range of the Segway’s power by adding a fuel cell,” said Dr. John Weidner, a professor of chemical engineering who developed the fuel cell-powered Segway with fellow chemical engineer Chuck Holland.
With $50,000 from the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge, Weidner and Holland put fuel cells on two Segways. The university gave one of the Segways to the City of Columbia for the police department; the other is being used by researchers and ultimately will have a home in the Horizon Center of Innovista, the university’s research district.
The fuel cell, about the size of a soft-drink can, is expected to increase the amount of time that a Segway can be used by 20 – 90 percent, Weidner said.
“For a police department, that might mean that the Segway could be used during an entire shift, rather than two or three hours,” he said, “and it doesn’t take too long to re-charge the canisters.”
Dr. Mark Becker, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said the fuel-cell project is a good example of what the university is doing to translate research into knowledge and apply that knowledge to commercial products.
“This particular project is really an excellent example of efforts by the university for sustainability,” he said. “It’s no secret that future fuels are a major research initiative at Carolina. This is an exciting innovation.”
Weidner and Holland also have created a company Hydrogen Hybrid Mobility that will test new uses of hydrogen energy.
The next step for the company, Holland said, is to conduct performance tests for the fuel cell-powered Segways and then work toward commercialization of their product.
Commercialization isn’t far into the future. A tour company recently contacted the researchers about their Segway adaptation. The company, which gives two tours a day, found that they could extend the number of tours to three if they had a fuel-cell powered Segway.
“They could increase their profit by 50 percent,” Holland said. “The future for this product is promising.”
The University of South Carolina is recognized as a leader in alternative-fuels research. The College of Engineering and Computing is home to the Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Fuel Cells, the nation’s only fuel-cell center established by the National Science Foundation.
Earlier this year, the university named Dr. Kenneth Reifsnider, one of the world’s pre-eminent fuel-cell researchers, to lead its solid-oxide fuel-cell research initiative and to pursue ways to apply the promising energy conversion devices to benefit society.
Reifsnider, the former director of the Connecticut Global Fuel Cell Center at the University of Connecticut, is the director of Carolina’s Solid Oxide Fuel Program and a professor of mechanical engineering. He is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering, making the University of South Carolina the state’s only university with an active faculty member of the prestigious academy.
The Daily Gamecock, USC’s student newspaper, also had some coverage of the event.
(Standard comment: How 'bout them Gamecocks?)