Dr. Richard Carlin, director of the Sea Warfare and Weapons Department in the Office of Naval Research (ONR), was honored with the 2010 Fuel Cell Seminar and Exposition Award on Oct. 19 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio.
Dr. Mark Williams, Fuel Cell Seminar and Exposition vice president, presented Carlin the award at this year’s seminar, which is considered the premier meeting for that industry.
“This award recognizes Dr. Carlin not only for his efforts to advance fuel cell technology, but also for his many years of promoting partnerships and building coalitions in the industry,” said Fuel Cell Manufacturing Team Leader Dr. Nancy Garland of the Department of Energy and co-chair of the Fuel Cell Seminar and Exposition Award, Technical Program Committee.
Carlin has contributed more than 20 years of working with the fuel cell community to expand the state of the art.
Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Nevin Carr congratulated Carlin. “It’s great to see the results of Dr. Carlin’s leadership being recognized across the broader energy community,” Carr said. “ONR is contributing energy solutions today because of the foresight Rich had years ago to foster basic research in alternative energy.”
A fuel cell generates electricity through reactions between a fuel, such as hydrogen, and an oxidant, which is triggered by the presence of an electrolyte. The only emission is water.
As a researcher, Carlin received his doctorate degree in Inorganic Chemistry from Iowa State University in 1982. His subsequent work in academic, industrial and government labs led to advancements in several energy related areas, including batteries, supercapacitors, and fuel cells. Carlin joined ONR as a program officer in 1997, where he has since managed numerous research efforts, not just in fuel cell technology, but in fuels, energy storage and energy conversion.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by my peers,” Carlin said. “But I want to emphasize that this award is more of an affirmation of the collective energy research efforts of many here at ONR who have contributed to meeting the Navy’s energy needs.”
Carlin oversees an array of fuel cell research at ONR addressing technology gaps to enable power systems that will meet the electrical needs of future naval surface ships, subsurface and air systems, as well as Navy and Marine Corps land-based vehicles and portable systems.
Recent successes in application of hydrogen-powered fuel cells include the Ion Tiger Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Developed at the Naval Research Laboratory, the Ion Tiger UAV set a world endurance record of 26 hours, proving the value of the fuel cell as a low-heat, low -noise signature propulsion system. Larger hydrogen fuel cell systems in vehicles are also being tested ashore.
“Navy critical weight and volume constraints require new power and distribution systems,” Carlin said, “and civilian application of these technologies is very achievable. For example, fuel cells have the tactical benefits of low heat signature, emissions and are virtually silent. These qualities are also desirable for civilian applications in providing power to the grid, a car or as a portable power source.”
Partnering with General Motors (GM), ONR sponsors fuel cell vehicles that currently augment cars at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and will expand next to Marine Corps Base Hawaii and other facilities. The program is aimed at helping the Secretary of the Navy meet new energy goals, to include cutting fuel use 50 percent in its commercial vehicle fleet by 2015.
In a related effort with GM, small, hydrogen fuel cells are being tested as possible power sources for unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV). UUVs augment existing Navy platforms to provide extended surveillance and ocean sensing capabilities. A variety of fuel cells, solid oxide, direct borohydride and hydrogen fuel cells are being tested as air-independent power sources for the UUV’s electric propulsion systems.
“This is a high priority for the Navy,” Carr said. “Unmanned autonomous vehicles are increasingly being integrated into our intelligence systems, and the key to leveraging them effectively as a force multiplier is finding a high-endurance power source.”
The Hawaii Energy and Environmental Technologies (HEET) initiative supports this energy research. The University of Hawaii’s fuel cell test facility at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) addresses the development and testing of advanced fuel cell systems, including processing and the characterization and development of sea-floor based methane hydrates.
A major technical challenge in bringing fuel cells into mass production for the Navy and the public is efficiently refining fuel, such as hydrogen, in sufficient quantities. ONR’s research efforts at the Naval Research Laboratory, HNEI and other facilities is another case where the Navy and Marine Corps needs are propelling solutions that may potentially benefit the public.