CONTACT: TOM SNEE
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Nov. 26, 2002
UI graduate students finalists in national inventors competition
Two University of Iowa graduate students recently were finalists in a national
inventors competition that recognized their work on an improved hydrogen fuel
cell that could make the technology a more commercially viable form of generating
The team of Drew Dunwoody and Wayne Gellett, students in UI's doctoral program
in analytical chemistry, were recently named as one of 16 finalists in the
Collegiate Inventors Competition, sponsored by the National Inventors Hall
of Fame, in New York City.
Also recognized was the team's faculty advisor and co-inventor, Johna Leddy,
associate professor of chemistry. The invention, along with numerous others
developed by Leddy and her colleagues, is owned by the UI Research Foundation.
Dunwoody's and Gellet's invention is a magnetically modified hydrogen fuel
cell that uses magnetic particles to increase power efficiency, reducing the
expense of operating a cell to make it more commercially viable. The magnetic
particles produce more efficient and powerful fuel cells by increasing their
power output without having to increase fuel pressure and by increasing their
tolerance to carbon monoxide poisoning.
"There's no current commercial application for hydrogen fuel cell technology
because it's so expensive," Dunwoody said. "Current fuel cell power
systems cost about seven times as much as traditional batteries or combustion
engines to create the same amount of power. However, magnetically modified
fuel cell technology has the potential to cut that price differential about
in half, or possibly more."
Dunwoody and Gellett have been working on magnetically modified systems
for about three years.
"Magnetic systems is a unique and challenging project because so little
is known about it, so there're lots of research avenues available," said
Gellett. "It's also a practical technology and I can see the benefits
of the work."
Although little used today, a likely first applicable commercial use of
fuel cell technology will be as backup power providers, replacing diesel-powered
generators currently used in many mission critical backup power systems. Dunwoody
is so convinced that hydrogen fuel cell technology will someday be commercially
viable that he has started his own company, Dunwoody Technologies Inc., to
develop and market it, and is seeking a license to the technology from the
UI Research Foundation.
The team is the first from UI to be named finalists in the Collegiate Inventors
Competition. Begun in 1990, the competition is the world's leading program
designed to honor collegiate inventors and identify the most advanced technology
research in all fields of science, engineering, mathematics, technology and
creative invention. More than 200 entries were solicited from 900 U.S. colleges
and universities, from which 16 were named as finalists. Six grand prizes
were awarded by an eight-member panel of judges that included two inductees
to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, along with research and technology
executives from Goodyear, Hewlett-Packard, NASA's John Glenn Research Center
and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.