– Despite the homecoming festivities and a crowded schedule of events, the Hydrogen Economy Forum was a big draw at Florida Tech with a packed house of
over 100 attendees including investors, inventors, research scientists, engineers, faculty, university students and school science fair participants.
“This was a unique experience for me to display my project “converting wind energy to hydrogen” to some of the best and brightest minds in the hydrogen
economy – they asked some thought-provoking questions and gave me ideas that I could use for future projects” said Daniel LaManna, a seventh grader at
Ascension Catholic School. Students from Eau Gallie High School, Cocoa High School, Madison Middle School, St Theresa in Titusville, McNair Magnet School
and Johnson Middle School also attended the forum and displayed their hydrogen, fuel cell, solar and wind energy-related projects.
The “Engineering Entrepreneurs in the Spotlight” seminar featured two technologies for converting ammonia into ultra-pure hydrogen – the Plasmonia method
presented by local inventor Dennis Lobmeyer and a competing technology presented by Bob Aronsson of Apollo Energy Systems of Pompano Beach.
The star-studded panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Mary Helen McCay, a former NASA astronaut and Director of the National Center for Hydrogen Research
at Florida Tech. The panelists included eminent researcher Dr. Nazim Muradov of FSEC, NASA Fluidics Manager Herman T. Everett, entrepreneurs Bob Aronsson
and Dr. Tom Edwards of Dyneco in Rockledge and Florida Tech faculty researchers Dr. Barry Grossman and Dr. Susan Earles.
Dr. Nazim Muradov, principal research scientist at FSEC and an eminent hydrogen researcher discussed some of the cutting-edge research in hydrogen
technologies and fuel cell that is being done at FSEC such as thermocatalytic and photocatalytic hydrogen production, fuel reforming, hydrogen storage
systems, hydrogen liquefaction and propellant densification, sensors, fuel cell development and hydrogen education. According to him the critical
developments for the hydrogen economy to become a commonplace reality are the development of cost effective hydrogen production technologies from local
renewable resources, efficient and safe hydrogen storage systems for on-board, portable and stationary applications, and low-cost high power density fuel
cells. Hydrogen economy and space technologies are synergistic areas, and Florida is well poised to be at forefront of the industries generated by both
NASA Fluids Manager Herman T. Everett discussed some of the cutting-edge research and development in hydrogen technologies that is being done at NASA such
as improvements in production, storage, transfer, and detection of hydrogen. According to him the critical developments for the hydrogen economy to become
a commonplace reality are reduction in costs of hydrogen and fuel cells, improvements in on-board vehicle storage quantities to get acceptable vehicle
range, and education and awareness to get public acceptance of a new kind of fuel different from what we have become accustomed. Florida and the Space
Coast have core competencies in the aerospace and technical community to lead the hydrogen economy. This state is fortunate to have a Governor who
recognizes the potential benefits of the Hydrogen Economy for good technical growth and job opportunities without further damage to our environment.
Mr. Everett reminded the audience of the NASA SBIR and STTR Programs to help entrepreneurs in emerging hydrogen technologies, and the university grants for
hydrogen research and development. He also displayed a working scale model of renewable clean energy system that uses light to split water into hydrogen
and oxygen, and then combine those gases in a fuel cell to produce electricity. This exhibit aroused considerable interest among the audience, especially
the high school students in attendance.
Bob Aronsson outlined his efforts to develop the electric car dating to the 1950s. He explained the difficulties he faced in selling his disruptive
technologies to the incumbent auto industry which has been deeply invested and entrenched in fossil-fuel based engines and technologies. He was ready to go
into large scale fuel cell production and if he found the right facilities and incentives, he would seriously consider moving his operations to the Space
Coast – which had tremendous core competencies in the areas of hydrogen and fuel cells.
Local Entrepreneur Dr. Tom Edwards outlined the research and development work being done in his company Dyneco, Inc. based in Rockledge. Dr Barry Grossman
presented the cutting-edge hydrogen sensor technology research that is being done at Florida Tech. Dr. Susan Earles spoke of the silicon-based hydrogen
technology research that is done in her Electrical Engineering lab at Florida Tech.
“This was an excellent forum focusing on the latest developments and what is needed to make the Hydrogen Economy a viable reality – it was well worth our
time and effort to drive from Orlando” quipped Dr. Guru Prasad, of Aximetric, Inc in Orlando.
This forum on the Hydrogen Economy and “Engineering Entrepreneur in the Spotlight” seminar was organized by the Florida Tech Department of Engineering
Systems, The National Center for Hydrogen Research and SIFE (Students in Free Entreprise). The next seminar will be on Friday, March 25 at 4pm and will
focus on voice recognition technologies.