Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fuel Cells

I'm now an expert in Fuel Cells.  No, seriously.

I just returned from visiting my mother in southern California.  While there, I decided to take a quick trip to northern California and visit my son, daughter-in-law and my sister. 


Travis is getting his PhD in Mechanical Engineering at U C Davis.  His emphasis is fuel cells.


When you get a PhD, you don't go out and invent the wheel.  You take a tiny portion of the wheel and make THAT better, or explore that tiny portion of history, etc.  So, Travis is taking existing fuel cells and making them a bit more efficient.  If lots of people do that, we soon will have dilithium crystals to power the warp drive to other solar systems.  Until we are in the Roddenberry/Star Trek world of the future, we have TRAVIS to solve the power needs of the world.


He took me to his lab. 


There are huge, pricey machines used to cut and design parts for things we don't know anything about. 


Your tax dollars, and corporate funding, at work. 

They buy blocks of steel and turn them into useful bits. 


Travis is taking existing fuel cells and making the grooves in them a different shape and depth to increase surface area and make them more efficient. 


The goal being to have a energy module in each house that is chock-o-block with many fuel cells.


  Eventually the unit will be the size of your water heater.  Hydrogen and oxygen is pumped in and it converts to electricity from the carbon(?) strip on the fuel cell. 


Any emissions are water, or maybe air.  I think.  You run all the appliances, lights and other energy users from this unit.

Do not run out to your local hardware store.  Not currently available.

Do not hold me to this explanation.  I think it is like going to a tribe in the deepest jungles of South America and telling them how to use a computer and how they work.  I am the Korowai in this explanation. ( "Yeah, that makes sense.  Sure, I understand.  Wha???")

Regardless of my lack of complete understanding of his research, I am very proud of him and the work he is doing.   Who knew my smart, little boy would grow up to be a smart, tall man who will help with energy consumption and reduce the emissions from energy plants?

Of course, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, she said modestly.

Oh, and in his spare time he has volunteered with  a high school in New Orleans for their robotics program. 


Built a wooden boat. 


And recently he has worked with the National Science Foundation to assist with teaching math and science to local sixth graders and is now working with the administration of that program.


  1. Yeah for Travis and of course he owes it all to his parents without whom he would not be here. Thanks for sharing and your pride doth show, Rebecca, and rightfully so.

  2. Excellent! He is quite accomplished.