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  December 10, 2001

Fuel Cell Donated to Engineering School

In a step toward becoming a worldwide research center for fuel cell technology, the School of Engineering has received a 200 kilowatt fuel cell donated by Connecticut Natural Gas Corp. The unit will be used in research and education.

The PC25 fuel cell, manufactured by UTC Fuel Cells of South Windsor, a United Technologies company, will provide electricity to the building on the Storrs campus that bears United Technologies' name. At the same time, it will serve as a learning tool for students engaged in research and development of fuel cells. The unit, weighing 40,000 pounds, has an estimated installed market value of $1 million.

President Philip E. Austin said the donation provides a tangible example of the tremendous power and future promise of fuel cells to provide clean energy to the state.

"Our School of Engineering is making major contributions to technological advancement," he said. "This gift will give Connecticut's future engineers an invaluable hands-on opportunity to investigate and improve

upon a vital element of 21st-century technology.

"We are extremely grateful to Connecticut Natural Gas for this opportunity, and look upon the donation as an outstanding example of the kind of University-corporate partnership that benefits our students and all the people of the state," Austin added.

Fuel cells are often hailed for their many advantages over existing energy technologies. They have no moving parts and operate much like batteries to produce electricity. They combine hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air to produce electricity, heat and water, and - because they operate without combustion - they are virtually pollution-free. A fuel cell can also operate much more efficiently than internal combustion engines - extracting more electricity from the same amount of fuel, because the fuel is converted directly to electricity.

Fuel cells range in size from the large power plant units to extremely compact, mobile units that can be used to power vehicles and appliances of all sizes, from a lawnmower to a hearing aid.

"This generous donation by Connecticut Natural Gas is a significant element of a greater commitment we are making in the School of Engineering to establish a world-class center of excellence in fuel cell research, development and deployment," said Amir Faghri, dean of engineering. "Now, more than ever, our nation needs to develop renewable, alternative energy sources that are unaffected by global politics and supply issues, and the School of Engineering will play a key role in advancing this important technological area."

The donated fuel cell previously provided power to the former corporate headquarters of Connecticut Natural Gas at 100 Columbus Blvd. in Hartford. The facility was demolished last month to make way for the Adriaen's Landing project, after the utility relocated its corporate offices to 10 Statehouse Square, Hartford.

Connecticut Natural Gas is a subsidiary of Energy East Corp., which serves two million customers in New England and upstate New York.

"Connecticut Natural Gas Corporation had a number of options when determining what to do with the fuel cell," said James P. Laurito, CNG's president and chief operating officer. "Our decision to donate the fuel cell to UConn's School of Engineering as a research tool is recognition of the University's commitment to using natural gas as an energy source and the advancement of producing energy in an environmentally friendly manner."

Janice Palmer