Montana State University

Energy Research Institute

Montana State University
P.O. Box 172465
Bozeman, MT 59717-2465

Tel: (406) 994-1658
Fax: (406) 994-2211
E-mail: energy@montana.edu

Director:

Lee Spangler

Assistant to the Director:

Michelle Leonti

High Temperature Electrochemistry Center (HiTec)

Summary

The High Temperature Electrochemistry Center (HiTEC) is a multidisciplinary research collaboration funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. HiTEC is managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory and is based at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.

Montana State University is home to HiTEC’s first satellite center, where researchers studying electroceramic materials and solid oxide fuel cells examine material formulation and processing; material properties; mechanisms of degradation; cell architecture and design; and power electronics and control.

HiTEC’s goal is to understand what limits the performance of high-temperature electrochemical systems. When understood, such systems could be used in applications such as fossil energy conversion, reversible fuel cells, gas separation and purification, electrolysis, emissions reduction, and low-cost materials manufacturing technologies. The center hopes to develop these and other new energy technologies.

Job Opportunities and Graduate Studies

Many of the researchers involved in HiTEC have opportunities for graduate and post-doctoral positions, as well as full-time employment. Please see the Web sites of our principal investigators for more information.

Principle Investigators

Dr. Lee H. Spangler
Dr. Lee H. Spangler is the associate vice president of research at MSU. His academic training and experience include a bachelor's degree in physics and chemistry from Washington and Jefferson College, where he graduated summa cum laude. He then earned his doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh, where his work was nationally recognized with the Proctor & Gamble Award, before accepting the Director's Funded Postdoctoral Fellowship at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Spangler was first employed at MSU as an assistant professor of physical chemistry and later co-founded and directed MSU's Optical Technology Center. Upon moving into the Office of Research, Creativity and Technology Transfer, he began developing research collaborations, such as MSU's High Temperature Electrochemistry Center.

Contact
Tel: 406-994-1658
E-mail: spangler@montana.edu

Max Deibert
Max Deibert, an emeritus professor in chemical and biological engineering, has been working with fuel cells since the 1960s. Deibert currently works in MSU’s high temperature corrosion and corrosion protection lab, where he fills a support position, providing the lab’s researchers with insight and assistance drawn from his long experience with fuel cell technologies.

Contact
Tel: 406-994-5990
E-mail: maxd@coe.montana.edu
Web site

Paul Gannon
Paul Gannon is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. He has been active in materials and energy research since 2000, with experience from industry, academia and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Gannon's research focuses on high-temperature corrosion and corrosion protection in energy conversion systems, and he supervises the MSU lab focused on that research.

Contact
Tel: 406-994-7380
E-mail: pgannon@coe.montana.edu
Web site

Hongwei Gao
In the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, assistant professor Hongwei Gao develops power converters for solid oxide fuel cell systems. These DC-to-AC converters condition the power produced by fuel cells. Gao has developed soft-switched converters for residential fuel cell power systems and is working on modular inverters for large-scale fuel cell systems.

Contact
Tel: 406-994-5973
E-mail: hgao@ece.montana.edu
Web site

Yves Idzerda
Physics professor Yves Idzerda, along with colleague Alex Lussier, researches high-performance, low-cost solid oxide fuel cells. Idzerda focuses on the places in fuel cells where different materials meet – the “interfaces.” These areas can degrade during fuel cell operation, which reduces the cell’s performance and life-span. Idzerda uses X-rays to probe the interface material and find the causes of degradation, which he hopes will ultimately lead to more reliable sources of clean energy.

Contact
Tel: 406-994-7838
E-mail: idzerda@physics.montana.edu
Web site

Hashem Nehrir
Electrical and computer engineering professor Hashem Nehrir’s research has produced physically-based, dynamic models of fuel cells that can be used to study distributed power generation and fuel cell vehicles. Nehrir also looks at how to get fuel cells and other power sources, such as wind and solar, to work together efficiently.

Contact
Tel: 406-994-4980
E-mail: hnehrir@ece.montana.edu
Web site

Hugo Schmidt
Physics professor emeritus Hugo Schmidt uses electrochemical impedance spectroscopy to understand how well ions, which carry charges inside fuel cells, flow through those materials.  He also employs gas chromatography to determine how well thin solid electrolyte materials perform as hydrogen separation membranes.  Schmidt also makes solid oxide fuel cells with either oxygen ions or protons as carriers in the solid electrolyte, and measures their performance in both the fuel cell and electrolysis modes as V(i) curves for different fuel and oxidant combinations and temperatures.  He compares these results with predictions of models he develops.  He and his students are beginning work on solid oxide fuel cells with liquid metal anodes.

Contact
Tel: 406-994-6173
E-mail: schmidt@physics.montana.edu
Web site

Steven Shaw
Electrical and computer engineering professor Steven Shaw is the associate director of MSU’s Energy Research Institute. Since coming to MSU in 2000, Shaw has worked on getting fuel cells to respond appropriately to rapidly changing power needs.

Contact
Tel: 406-994-5982
E-mail: sshaw@ece.montana.edu
Web site

Dick Smith
Physics department head Dick Smith looks at detailed changes in interconnect coatings in the early stage of fuel cell testing. To study this “burn-in” phase, Smith uses highly sensitive ion beams and other high-tech analytical equipment in MSU’s image and chemical analysis lab.

Contact
Tel: 406-994-6152
E-mail: smith@physics.montana.edu
Web site

Stephen Sofie
Stephen Sofie, an assistant professor in mechanical and industrial engineering, develops methods to make solid oxide fuel cells and their components more durable and efficient. Sofie works with methods and materials designed to reduce sulfur-caused degradation in fuel cells. He also engineers new materials that let gases flow more smoothly through cells and more effective ways to hermetically seal the cells.

Contact
Tel: 406-994-6299
E-mail: ssofie@me.montana.edu
Web site