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Camden grad student earns fuel cell grant

Posted: December 21, 2012 5:56 p.m.
Updated: December 24, 2012 5:00 a.m.

A former Camden High School (CHS) student is celebrating $25,000 in funding through the Fuel Cell Collaborative, a partnership between the University of South Carolina (USC) and the city of Columbia.

David Chandler, a December 2012 graduate of the chemical engineering program at USC, will pursue his Ph.D. in January 2013 while working on his winning research project that will enhance disposal and recycling methods for spent fuel canisters with Trulite Inc. The “improved methods will reduce fuel canister costs and lead to increased market penetration,” according to a press release sent by Fuel Cell Challenge organizers.

Chandler, with the help of two other undergraduate students, Darrius Dunbar and Ross Hutto, composed a team called business-engineering-SC (be-SC). Their professional project directors are Dr. Mike Matthews and Dr. Jason Hattrick-Simpers.

At a young age, Chandler realized he was interested in taking things apart in order to determine how they worked. Math classes with CHS teacher Lisa Twitty and his various science classes made him more interested in pursuing the possibility of becoming an engineer.

Chemical engineering seemed the most flexible out of all of the specialized engineering options USC offered, Chandler said. He is interested in entrepreneurship.

“I like to be creative, innovative and I like to solve problems,” said Chandler, who lives in Camden with his wife, Rebekah, and their two young daughters, Nora and Ava. “I just want to use my talents to make the world a better place.”

Chandler decided to participate in the Fuel Cell Challenge after looking for opportunities to practice what he’s learning. The challenge called on students to come up with a solution to an industry problem. Chandler worked with a professor who knew people at Truelite, which moved from California to Columbia on Powell Road.

The company’s goal includes “creating and commercializing clean energy technologies that become useful products for our customers,” according to its website.

“Columbia is looking to become a leader in fuel cell research,” Chandler said. “I’m happy that they let undergrads participate, because it also gives you experience applying for grants.”

In addition to the $25,000 of funding by the Fuel Cell Collaborative, which will pay for test equipment, Trulite decided to match the fund. The other $25,000 will provide a stipend to Chandler and his teammates, as well as go to Chandler’s tuition. 

Chandler and his teammates will do about six months of research to optimize Trulite’s portable fuel cell canisters and make them more efficient. At the end of the project, Chandler and his teammates will present their findings to a number of industry representatives.

The Fuel Cell Challenge began in 2006 in order to “invest in accelerating the commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies through collaboration.” The program has awarded nearly $5 million in funding to help advance fuel cell industry in South Carolina. Midlands Technical College, EngenuitySC, and SCRA are also affiliated with the challenge.

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