Florida Solar Energy Center Director, Dr. James Fenton, Recipient of 2008 UCF Award for Excellence in Distinguished Research

Cocoa, Fla. – Dr. James Fenton, director of the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) and recognized expert in electrochemical engineering, received this year’s University of Central Florida Award for Excellence in Distinguished Research. This honor is awarded to researchers whose work has created an impact within their discipline and in society. Their work is recognized by research peers, has been published and presented on numerous occasions, and provides external grant and contract support for the research.

Fenton has led his team in a wide variety of hydrogen research activities, although he specializes in fuel cell applications. Fenton’s award-winning work focuses on the research and development of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. PEM fuel cells transform chemical energy released during the electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen to electrical energy, rather than producing mechanical energy as current internal combustion engines do. While PEM fuel cells are being developed primarily for the next-generation automobile engine, they are also being developed as sources for portable power and emergency backup power applications.

One major contribution from Fenton and his team¿s research is the development of a fuel cell with a patented membrane that allows it to operate at higher temperatures and under drier environments than present commercial membranes. This translates to higher fuel cell efficiency and lower costs, which allows the use of smaller radiators in automobiles and more useful waste heat recovery in stationary applications.

“Dr. Fenton has made many contributions to the fundamentals of electrochemical engineering as a discipline,” wrote Ali Raissi, FSEC director of hydrogen research, in his nomination letter.

As well as being an expert in his field, Fenton is also an author, teacher and energy research advocate. His papers have appeared in more than 65 peer-reviewed journals, and he has given hundreds of technical presentations and seminars. He has graduated 37 students with advanced degrees, and several of them have achieved recognition as leaders in the fuel cell field.

Fenton serves as the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) technical point of contact for its High Temperature Membrane Working Group, and he is also a newly elected Fellow of The Electrochemical Society. Most recently, Fenton was appointed by Florida Governor Charlie Crist as a member of the Florida Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change, which is charged with preserving Florida¿s natural environment through developing recommendations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and diversify the state’s energy resources.

At FSEC, Fenton has made significant contributions to research and education by establishing and staffing the UCF fuel cell research laboratory at the center. He has also excelled in attracting external research grants and contract support during his three years at FSEC.

“By joining and leading FSEC, Dr. Fenton has tremendously elevated the center’s reputation among both the state and federal agencies tasked with energy research and development,” said Raissi.

The award was presented to Dr. Fenton as part of the UCF Founder’s Day Honors Convocation on April 2, 2008.

About the Florida Solar Energy Center

The Florida Solar Energy Center is a research institute of the University of Central Florida. It is the largest and most active state-supported energy research institute in the country. Center divisions and their research activities include Advanced Energy Research: alternative transportation systems, hydrogen fuel and fuel cells; Buildings Research: energy-efficient buildings; and Solar Energy: solar water and pool heating and solar electric (photovoltaics) and distributed generation systems. For more information, visit www.floridaenergycenter.org or call the FSEC Public Affairs Office at 321-638-1015.