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WVU Tech receives $2.4 million for the first year of Direct Carbon Fuel Cell research project from the United States Department of Defense

West Virginia University Institute of Technology has received $2.4 million to fund Direct Carbon Fuel Cell (DCFC) research for the United States Department of Defense (DoD). The multimillion, multi-year project will be a collaborative effort with the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and American Science and Technology (AST).

“We view this as a great research opportunity for our faculty, students, and the state of West Virginia. We’re very thankful for Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito’s support of the project,” said Dr. Scott Hurst, WVU Tech provost.

The goal of the research project is to develop required technologies to replace hydrogen with carbon extracted from domestic coal for fuel cell operation and electric power generation. The technologies will be used for different military applications such as unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). During recent years, these types of vehicles have played a critical role in military efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other regions. Presently, most robotic systems are powered by either petroleum-derived fuel engines or batteries. This project aims to develop more efficient power sources and systems for these robotic vehicles.

“By replacing conventional power supply systems with DCFC technology packages designed specifically for mobile robotics systems, the potential for enhanced mission capabilities, energy efficiency by using domestic coal, maintenance efficiency, and, ultimately, cost savings for the federal government could be met,” explained principal researcher and WVU Tech professor Dr. Asad Davari.

“Among the various types of fuel cells, DCFC has the potential to be the most economical and efficient source of power that meets ARL and DoD requirements. A large scale adoption of the direct carbon conversion will help to conserve precious fossil resources by allowing more power to be harnessed from the same amount of fuel. This research project indeed complements our established Renewable Energy Lab within the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. We will work to fulfill the needs of the DoD; and as the by-product, to develop technologies which can be used by commercial industry to generate power at remote locations using domestic coal," Davari continued.