In reading the spring/summer issue of Research Horizons, a publication of the Georgia Institute of Technology, I was impressed by the nature and scope of the institute's broad-based research program. John Toon, manager of research at the institute's News and Publication Office, said Georgia Tech's researchers are addressing energy issues on several fronts while advancing renewable energy technology, exploring potential new energy sources, and making more efficient use of conventional fossil fuels.

Fuel cells are hot in our industry, and we acknowledge their capability of converting chemical energy directly to electrical energy. The result: A tremendous potential for using fuels more efficiently and with reduced emissions. According to the publication, Georgia Tech's fuel cell program, coordinated by the Center for Innovative Fuel Cell and Battery Technologies, includes everything from the tiniest micro fuel cells integrated into microelectric packages all the way up to refrigerator-sized units for powering homes. The program is developing innovations in membranes, fuel reforming, systems integrating, catalyst optimizing, modeling, and other key areas. For more information, e-mail Meilin Liu at meilin.liu@mse.gatech.edu.

We're also aware of photovoltaics. Georgia Tech's Aquatic Center has a photovoltaic array that produces 30% of the building's electricity. This is enough energy to power 70 average homes. Researchers are evaluating the long-term performance of the massive array as well as advancing basic technology to make photovoltaic cells more efficient and less costly. For more information, e-mail Ajeet Rohatgi at ajeet.rohatgi@ece.gatech.edu.

Electric and electric-hybrid vehicles are starting to emerge in the automobile market. Researchers at the National Electric Energy Testing, Research and Applications Center (NEETRAC) are field-testing these vehicles to help auto manufacturers ensure the new systems meet real-world needs. NEETRAC studies other electric power issues as well. One recent project included evaluating a new battery rapid charging system for electric baggage tractors used by Delta Airlines as part of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency initiative. Another was to evaluate a hybrid-diesel-electric trouble truck that would operate on its own batteries while working in neighborhoods, thus eliminating the need for the truck engines to run continuously. Still another project involved the conversion by a team of Georgia Tech students of a Ford Explorer to hybrid power. For more information, e-mail Caryn Riley at caryn.riley@ece.gatech.edu.

We've talked about energy conservation. Well, engineers at Georgia Tech's Economic Development Institute are helping Georgia companies use energy more efficiently. According to the publication, these engineers also developed the Management System for Energy 2000 for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI/MSE 2000). Bill Meffert, manager of the Energy and Environmental Services Group, said the standard is being implemented nationwide. For more information, e-mail Bill Meffert at bill.meffert@edi.gatech.edu.

Modern economies depend on energy to keep them going. But using limited resources and creating air pollution and global warming are undesirable side effects. We must look at this problem with our mind focused on the long term. The work of academia, as exemplified above, is aimed at ensuring tomorrow's energy supply while keeping our environment safe and healthy and our planet habitable. For a complete look at Georgia Tech's top-ranked research programs, visit gtresearchnews.gatech.edu.

jdedad@primediabusiness.com