Undergrads win hydrogen production contest
True to its name, the homemaker’s hydrogen generator featured a reactor vessel from Walmart and a whole lot of caulk.
The student-made device also produced enough clean-burning hydrogen fuel to win first place in an international competition sponsored by the International Association for Hydrogen Energy (IAHE). The all-undergraduate team put about $600 worth of materials into its device, which used a solar panel to produce electricity that split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
“We realized we couldn’t compete with the scientific literature in terms of time, resources and knowledge,” said Katherine Song, a senior majoring in electrical engineering, and co-captain of the 10-student team. “We took a low-level approach that anyone could understand.”
The project started in the fall of 2009 when seniors Jane Yang and Yin Liang, both chemical and biological engineering majors, started a Princeton student chapter of the IAHE with Professor Jay Benziger as the club’s adviser. With the contest as the club’s first venture, the students worked through the winter, hitting numerous roadblocks, including an inexplicable lack of hydrogen.
“One day I just went nuts with the caulk,” said Song. The problem, which turned out to be many tiny leaks, was solved.
The students’ write-up of their results, titled “A portable hydrogen generator for the homemaker,” is due to be published in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. Their win also allows them to send five students to the World Hydrogen Energy Conference in Toronto in June 2012.
The project received support from the Kurtz Fund for Innovation in Engineering Education.
For more details on the group and to see a video explaining its submission, visit www.princeton.edu/~iahe.