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CoEE program helping make South Carolina a hydrogen hub

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CoEE program helping make South Carolina a hydrogen hub

Program and CoEE endowed chairs in spotlight during this week's National Hydrogen Association conference in Columbia


Beginning today, more than 1,000 energy, automotive, technology, and hydrogen industry representatives from around the globe will be in Columbia for the National Hydrogen Association's annual conference. Companies such as BMW, Chevron, Shell Hydrogen, General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen will attend.


During the conference, South Carolina will promote its numerous hydrogen assets to industry leaders with the goal of encouraging hydrogen-related companies to invest in the state and create jobs. One important asset is the state's Centers of Economic Excellence (CoEE) program, which invests state and private funds to recruit top scientists and engineers to lead advanced research centers at state universities. The CoEE program is helping make South Carolina a leader in clean, renewable alternative energy research, particularly in fuel cell development. The purpose of this energy research is to help the state and nation move closer to sustainability and energy independence.


CoEE has funded three hydrogen-related research centers in the state. All three are housed at the University of South Carolina and are part of the university-wide Future Fuels initiative, which was created to develop new fuels and energy choices that can lessen the world's need for carbon-based fuels. The centers, listed below, provide a place where South Carolina's universities collaborate with industry to advance hydrogen and fuel cells:


The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Economy CoEE conducts research to develop hydrogen storage materials and sensors for fuel cells.


The Solid Oxide Fuel Cells CoEE focuses on developing fuel cells that can be used in large, high-power systems such as in full-scale industrial and large-scale electricity generating stations.


The Renewable Fuel Cells for the Fuel Cell Economy CoEE is developing catalysts that allow alternative fuels to be produced from renewable sources.


These centers have attracted several collaborators from government and industry. Among the many funding partners are the National Science Foundation and companies including Boeing, Dow Corning, General Motors and others (through their sponsorship of the nation's only Industry/University Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of South Carolina).


The CoEE program has also enabled South Carolina to recruit two of the world's top hydrogen researchers, who will be spotlighted at the conference:


Brian Benicewicz--His research focuses on polymer membranes for hydrogen fuel cells, polymer nanocomposites and hydrogen pumps. He co-founded a company, H2 Pump LLC, that processes hydrogen and commercializes new membranes based on his research. He is an endowed chair in the CoEE for Polymer Nanocomposite Research.


Kenneth Reifsnider--His research focuses on fuel cell science and engineering--creating practical and marketable fuel cells and systems that can meet future energy needs and benefit society. He is an endowed chair in the CoEE for Solid Oxide Fuel Cells. He is also a member of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.


Several spin-off companies have already emerged from the hydrogen-related centers, including DEnergy (storage and generation of hydrogen gas for fuel cell operations), Palmetto Fuel Cell Analysis & Design (advanced software and consulting), Palmetto Fuel Cell Technologies (advanced hardware for fuel cell manufacturers), Hydrogen Hybrid Mobility (fuel-cell adaptation of Segway personal transporters), and Greenway Energy (training materials for employees in the fuel cell industry).


For more information on the CoEE program and its role in building South Carolina's hydrogen economy, visit


About the CoEE program

The CoEE program was created by the South Carolina legislature in 2002 and is funded through South Carolina Education Lottery proceeds. The legislation authorizes the state's three public research institutions, Medical University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the University of South Carolina, to use state funds to create Centers of Economic Excellence (CoEEs) in research areas that will advance South Carolina's economy. Each Center of Economic Excellence is awarded from $2 million to $5 million in state funds, which must be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis with non-state investment. To date, 42 Centers of Economic Excellence and 74 CoEE endowed chairs have been awarded. The program currently supports 21 CoEE endowed chairs, world-renowned researchers who lead the Centers of Economic Excellence. For more information, visit


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