Allen, Medici Receive First Bhakta Rath Award

By Jennifer Donovan

For their pioneering work to improve water management in low-temperature fuel cells, Jeffrey Allen and PhD student Ezequiel Medici were named the first winners of the Bhakta Rath Research Award. Allen is an associate professor of mechanical engineering–engineering mechanics.

The award, endowed earlier this year by 1958 Michigan Tech alumnus Rath and his wife, Shushama Rath, recognizes a doctoral student at Michigan Tech and his or her faculty advisor for "exceptional research of particular value that anticipates the future needs of the nation while supporting advances in emerging technology."

Medici and Allen focus on managing water produced during the operation of a fuel cell, liquid that leads to performance loss and rapid degradation of the cell, shortening the system's life. They developed a technique to optimize fuel cell electrodes and a simple, reliable computational tool that captures the nature of liquid water movement in fuel cell electrodes. Their work, sponsored by the US Department of Energy and conducted in collaboration with the Rochester Institute of Technology and General Motors, will reduce research-and-development time and the cost of improving fuel cell performance and durability.

The professor and his graduate student share a $2,000 prize.

Bill Predebon, chair of mechanical engineering–engineering mechanics, remarked on the potential importance of Allen and Medici's work. "The research will have a significant impact in the fuel cell industry in the design of the porous materials used in fuel cells," he said.

The Raths endowed the research award in April 2010 to promote and reward research excellence in the physical and natural sciences and engineering, fields in which Michigan Tech is a world leader.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.