January 4, 2007
University lands pre-eminent fuel-cell researcher to lead solid oxide fuel-cell enterprise
One of the world's pre-eminent fuel-cell researchers is joining the University of South Carolina to lead its solid oxide fuel-cell research initiative and to pursue ways to apply the promising energy conversion devices to benefit society.
Dr. Kenneth L. Reifsnider, director of the Connecticut Global Fuel Cell Center at the University of Connecticut, will become director of the Solid Oxide Fuel Program and Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Educational Foundation University Professor this summer.
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 when he arrives.
Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) convert chemical to electrical energy directly. These types of fuel cells are similar to batteries except they are continually replenished with fuel and provide a continuous supply of electric power -- unlike batteries that run down and ultimately lose power. Applications include large-scale power distribution for municipalities, rural areas, and industries, as well as heat and power for homes. These fuel cells are highly efficient, operate with a number of fuels, including renewable fuels, and produce very low amounts of greenhouse gasses and pollution.
Reifsnider said he was attracted to the University of South Carolina because of its commitment to research areas that will have an impact on society, the partnership that exists among the university, the city and the state's leadership, and the plans for Innovista, the university's new research district.
"When I visited the University of South Carolina, I was impressed by the leadership team, particularly their vision and dedication to fostering a research environment that leads to results and meeting society's needs. I share that dream," Reifsnider said. "In my scientific career, I haven't seen the level of investment, support and vision that this state, city and university have combined to put forth for future fuels work. ... It's exciting and one of the key reasons I chose to come here."
Reifsnider, who said he will begin building the program and hiring a team of top researchers as soon as he arrives at the university, said the opportunity to develop a center devoted to solid oxide fuel-cell research and to work with fuel-cell scientists and engineers at the Savannah River National Laboratory and other research institutions, including Clemson and Georgia Tech, were key factors in his decision to join South Carolina's faculty.
University of South Carolina President Andrew Sorensen said Reifsnider will have a key role as universities, industries and cities throughout South Carolina collaborate to develop products and services for an economy that uses fuel cells for energy.
"Future Fuels are a major research focus at South Carolina," Sorensen said. "Having Dr. Reifsnider on our faculty positions South Carolina as a leader in fuel cell research efforts in our state and nation."
Dr. Michael Amiridis, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing, said Reifsnider will build capacity in the critical area of fuel cell research, contribute to the education of undergraduate and graduate students and serve as a spokesman for fuel-cell research at South Carolina.
Amiridis said Reifsnider's presence will raise the university's profile in the international arena of fuel-cell research and application.
"With his background as a world-renowned scientist and engineer, Dr. Reifsnider brings invaluable experience to fuel-cell research at South Carolina," Amiridis said. "His expertise will enable the university to bridge the gap between fuel cells and their use for business and industry."
Once funding is fully in place, university officials plan to take steps to secure his appointment as the university's second endowed chair funded by the state's Centers of Economic Excellence endowed chairs initiative.
South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell said the hiring of one of the world's leading fuel-cell researchers is a feather in the cap for the university, the state and the City of Columbia.
"This is an exciting achievement and is one that, I believe, will have a lasting impact on the economy of our state and ultimately the region," Harrell said. "It is a shining example of what can be accomplished when the University of South Carolina, the legislature and the city work together to bring research and development opportunities to South Carolina."
Reifsnider earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Western Maryland College and a bachelor's degree in engineering science from John Hopkins University, where he also earned a master's degree in mechanics and a doctoral degree in metallurgy and solids mechanics.
He joined the faculty at Virginia Tech in 1968 and was promoted to associate provost for interdisciplinary studies, overseeing 104 centers. He was a deputy director of the National Science Foundation's Center for High Performance Polymeric Adhesives and Composites from 1992 -2000. In 2002, he joined the University of Connecticut as holder of the Pratt & Whitney Chair of Design and Durability.
Reifsnider was named director of the Connecticut Global Fuel Cell Center in 2004. A fellow of the American Society of Testing and Materials and the American Society for Mechanical Engineers, Reifsnider holds three patents and has published more than 200 articles in leading journals in his field.
He serves as editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Fatigue and associate editor of the International Journal of Fuel Cell Science and Technology, published by ASME.
Reifsnider's appointment is the second major announcement from the University of South Carolina's College of Engineering and Computing in the last month. In December, college officials announced plans to expand undergraduate enrollment by 30 percent to more than 1,630 students by 2010 in order to help better meet the region and country's growing needs for engineering and computing professionals.
For two centuries, the University of South Carolina's scholarship, research and outreach efforts have contributed to the greater good of society. With 39,000 students on eight campuses and more than 350 degree programs -- including law, engineering, public health and medicine -- and 240,000 alumni, the University is improving the lives of individuals in South Carolina and around the world. South Carolina has received the highest research designation awarded by the Carnegie Foundation, and the University's undergraduate international business program si ranked best in the nation in U.S. News & World Report.