La Verne Magazine
"Tradition & Change"
Filling Up With Hydrogen
by Jeanette M. Neyman
Imagine being in the middle of a large busy city on the United States
west coast. The familiar roar of internal combustion engines can be heard
all around, but there are almost no toxic emissions coming from all these
cars, trucks, buses and planes.
The vision is staggering: a society powered almost entirely by hydrogen
-- the most abundant element on earth. When the hydrogen is used as an energy
source in a fuel cell, it generates no emissions other than water, which
is recycled to make more hydrogen.
A mere fantasy? Perhaps not -- especially if Dr. Iraj Parchamazad, professor
of chemistry and chair of the Chemistry Department, has anything to do with
it. Making this vision a reality in the 21st century is the goal of researchers
led by Dr. Parchamazad at the University of La Verne. A $600,000 private
research grant will help the ULV chemistry department explore promising
new hydrogen technology for production, storage and utilization as an alternative
fuel. Substantial research monetary support has also come from the United
States Department of Energy.
"Sooner or later we will find it, but it is like a war where nobody
talks about it, because it is so revolutionary," Dr. Parchamazad says.
"It will be like electricity was to the beginning of the 19th century."
Presently, Dr. Parchamazad and his team are in the process of applying
for patents on their work. Sale of stock for the research enterprise is
on the horizon.
"The United States government, including the Department of Defense,
Department of Transportation and Department of Energy support this emerging
technology so much they consider it an issue of national security,"
Several countries, including the United States, Canada, Germany and
France are putting tremendous resources into developing the technology.
Hydrogen is the chemist's analog to electricity. Like electricity, the
hydrogen element does not occur naturally to be used as fuel-it must be
generated or produced by consuming fuels or other forms of energy.
These new hydrogen technologies would put nature's most basic element
to work as a versatile energy carrier and a clean fuel. However, Dr. Parchamazad
points out that one of the greatest obstacles of using hydrogen is safety
because it is extremely flammable.
Dan Herrig, a full-time research associate for the project, feels that
although the technology is merely in the prototype stage, it has endless
possibilities. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to
make a name for myself," he says.