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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Students to exhibit research on the National Mall in Washington May 16 and 17

A team of students from New Mexico State University will have the opportunity to exhibit their research on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., May 16 and 17.


s one of 66 universities selected by the Environmental Protection Agency to participate in its first P3 competition, which provides grants to teams of college students to research, develop and design sustainable solutions to environmental challenges. P3 stands for "People, Prosperity and Planet."

Three students led by Shuguang Deng, assistant professor of chemical engineering, received $10,000 to develop a project related to fuel cells.

Fuel cells - which take hydrogen and oxygen and convert them to electricity - hold promise as an alternative form of energy, but there are several challenges that need to be overcome if they are to be used commercially.

One problem is the fact that a catalyst is needed to break down the hydrogen. The catalyst currently used for fuel cells is platinum, which has good activity but is very expensive. Also, the sulfur in hydrogen deactivates the platinum.

There are two possible ways to solve this problem. One is to remove the sulfur from hydrogen, which is very difficult. The other is to make a fuel cell catalyst that can tolerate sulfur.

Deng's students tackled the latter approach, coming up with a new catalyst made of ruthenium, nickel and sulfur. In addition to overcoming the contamination problem, this catalyst would be 30 percent less expensive than platinum.
Students participating in the project include undergraduate student Derrik Wootton and graduate students Gapala Reddy and Kalyana Pingali. The team hopes to receive additional funding to continue its research.