NFCRC In the News . . .Archives

School of Engineering Receives $3 Million Grant

By Azita Moradmand, Staff Writer
New University - University of California at Irvine
December 2001

UCI Advanced Power and Energy Program, or APEP, an interdisciplinary research program at The Henry Samueli School of Engineering, announced Nov. 13 that it received a $3 million grant from the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research program.

According to Scott Samuelsen, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center or NFCRC, the APEP will use the grant "to address major challenges
to the... deployment of distributed [power] generation" using alternative fuels.

"Distributed power generation is the alternative to the present manner by which electricity is generated," Samuelsen said. "[It means] electricity is produced at the site of its use, say your home or your university building." The research will study what alternative fuels other than natural gas could be used for the generation of electricity, among them fuels derived from bio-mass such as agricultural waste, Samuelsen said.

The five-year grant supports four major research projects. The projects, Samuelsen said, involve generating a simulated bio-mass gaseous fuel, assessing the air quality impact of distributed generation in major urban areas, creating a low-emission combustor for use with a micro-turbine generator and developing a micro-turbine that operates on fuel types other than natural gas, particularly bio-mass fuels.

"A major reason to operate on [bio-mass] fuels is to reduce the carbon burden to the atmosphere and thereby reduce the threat to global climate change," Samuelsen said.

The project of assessing the air quality impact of distributed generation in major urban areas will be led by Donald Dabdub, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, with Samuelsen and NFCRC Associate Director Jack Brouwer as collaborators.

According to Samuelsen, the San Onofre nuclear and Huntington Beach natural gas power plants are the central locations from which power is generated currently near UCI. The research wants to promote an alternative to this centralized generation by promoting "distributed generation."
Possible advantages of distributed power generation include an increase in the reliability of electrical power, an increase in power quality and a reduction in environmental impact, Samuelsen said. But an increase in distributed generation also poses a threat to the goals of improving the quality of air in major urban areas, which, Samuelsen said, is why the air quality study is important.

The third and fourth projects will seek to reduce air pollutant emissions of distributed generation.

"Of the major candidates for distributed generation, microturbine generators pose the major challenge for air pollution," Samuelsen said. "[The third project] will endeavor to minimize nitric oxide emission."
The fourth project aims, he said, "to assure reliable operation [of] combustion systems [in the new micro-turbine generators]." Samuelsen will work on these last two projects with Vincent McDonell, UCI Combustion Laboratory associate director of APEP.

Samuelsen said other planned projects, such as the development of technology for overseeing distributed generation, will be funded separately by the California Energy Commission, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Defense.

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