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Brookhaven wins clean energy research grants

Brookhaven National Laboratory will be the site of a clean energy research project that scientists believe will help lower the cost of fuel cells, federal officials have announced.

The program, which will cost about $3.8 million in federal funds, is also expected to speed up the introduction of fuel cells into the marketplace, lab and federal Department of Energy officials said.

Fuel cells are devices that produce electricity by combining an oxidant and a fuel, such as oxygen and hydrogen. Some scientists view fuel cell technology as more efficient than traditional burning fuel, but fuel cells are not yet widely regarded as cost effective.

Jim Misewich, an associate lab director for basic energy sciences at Brookhaven National Lab, said the new research project “could make them much more practical because they would be cheaper.”

The lab plans to use “a range of fuels” in its research under the new program, he said.

“Today most of them are using pure hydrogen. We could develop ways to use a more wide variety of fuels,” he said.

The federal Department of Energy will phase the funding for the project over four years, beginning with about $400,000 this year, officials said.

In other funding news, Brookhaven Lab is set to receive one of five grants awarded to energy research centers around the state, including one at Stony Brook University.

The centers will receive $95.5 million over five years from the federal government, to be matched by state grants totaling $10.55 million. Stony Brook will receive $17 million from the federal government and $1.7 million from the state. Brookhaven gets $25 million from the federal government and $2.5 million from the state.

Paul DeCotis, New York’s deputy energy secretary, said the effort would create 300 to 400 jobs in the state over the five-year grant period. At Stony Brook, much of the research will focus on ongoing projects with lithium ion batteries, including their use in transportation and diagnostics, said Stony Brook professor Clare Grey.

Public officials lauded the research as a method of attracting skilled labor to Long Island.

“Brookhaven National Laboratory will continue to play a leading role in ending America’s dangerous dependence on Middle Eastern oil and creating the clean energy economy of the future,” said Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), whose district includes the Upton lab, in a statement.

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May 26, 2009 - 3:47 PM