Dr. Etim Ubong

Dr. Etim Ubong chairs 10th International ASME Fuel Cell Conference

Professionals from 34 countries attended the conference in July, which included the ASME 2012 Sixth International Conference on Energy Sustainability.

Dr. Etim Ubong, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at Kettering University, presided as the general conference chair at the 10th International ASME Fuel Cell Conference in San Diego, Calif.

Professionals from 34 countries attended the conference in July, which included the ASME 2012 Sixth International Conference on Energy Sustainability.

Dr. Etim UbongUbong opened the conference saying, “We are here to nucleate ideas from the experts in various fields: fuel cells, solar and energy sustainability fields and use the forum to exchange ideas on cutting-edge technology.

“Ten years ago, we only had a few demonstration models to present to the world that alternatives to the currently powered fossil fuel devices are feasible,” he said.  “Now, the fuel cell community has come a long way from obscurity to a position of strength. This is evidenced by the fact that this Conference Center (California’s Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina) is powered solely by a fuel cell. Make no mistake, we are in the era of energy revolution and we can proudly say today, we are on the right track.”

Ubong said every generation stands on its predecessor’s shoulders. “We are building on the work of our predecessors who passed this baton to us to improve on the technology of developing, testing and applying fuel cells into various sectors of the economy. As of now, we have made significant impact in the area of stationary power generation. This transition or road map is not going to be easy, but our generation is up to the task,” he continued.

View of a single unit of Direct fuel cell powering San Diego Sheraton at Marina   (Courtesy: Fuel Cell Energy)

Ubong said he strongly believes in the development and use of all forms of alternative energy.  He has been instrumental to introducing alternative fuels into Kettering University’s curriculum since the mid-1990s with the support of Kettering Alumni Association. He has a vision of having Kettering’s Mott Science and Engineering Center powered entirely by fuel cells one day.

Currently, Ubong is working on a proposal to engage his fuel cell students to participate in the Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge that enhances the idea of clean energy. The concept of combining heat and power for the Mott Center, using a fuel cell power plant and natural gas, is currently being investigated.

Also participating in the ASME conference as authors and co-authors were:

Kettering Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Gianfranco DiGiuseppe
Session Chair/organizer: High Temperature Fuel Cell Modeling – I

As an author, he presented two papers:
“Seal Leakage Effects on the Electrical Performance of an SOFC Button Cell”
“Surface to Surface Radiation Exchange Effects in a 3D SOFC Stack Unit Cell”

Ubong’s other responsibilities included serving as a track organizer for “Materials for Low Temperature Fuel Cells” and session chair for “Materials for Low temperature Fuel Cells.”

Ubong also presented with Firoz Ali and Uwem Ubong; “Comparative Analysis of High Temperature PBI Membrane Performance with Low temperature membrane”.  Additionally, he presented “Mass and Energy Balance of a High Temperature PBI Membrane PEM Stack.”

“Kettering is very positively viewed as we contribute very significantly to the renewable Energy fields,” Ubong said.  “We are listed as one of the universities in the world offering alternative fuels and fuel cells, thanks to the Kettering Alumni Association that first acknowledged this potential in the mid-1990s and awarded a Rodes Professorship to initiate the program. Also to the office of the Provost and head of Mechanical Engineering Department that have been in full support of this initiative.”

Ubong serves as a member of many renewable energy scientific committees and editorial boards within and outside the country. Recently, he was elected as the editor of two journals: Journal of Energy and Power Engineering and Advances in Automobile Engineering.

A look back in time:

Ubong cited a portion of the petition from citizens in 1875 that asked the U.S. Congress to set up a Horseless Carriage Commission to ban the introduction and use of gasoline in commerce because it would make the use of horses and carts obsolete.  That statement read in part:

“…..A new source of power, which comes from a distillate of kerosene called gasoline, has been produced by a Boston engineer.  Instead of burning the fuel under a boiler, it is exploded inside the cylinder of the engine. This so-called internal combustion engine may be used under certain conditions to supplement steam engines. Experiments are underway to use an engine to propel a vehicle.  This discovery begins a new era in the history of civilization. It may someday prove to be more revolutionary in the development of human society than the invention of the wheel, the use of metals, or the steam engine. Never in history has society been confronted with power so full of potential danger and at the same time so full of promise for the future of man and for the peace of the world. In addition, the development of this new power may displace the use of horses, which would wreck our agriculture. We therefore earnestly recommend that Congress set up a Horseless Carriage Commission, which will have complete control over all sources of gasoline and similar explosive elements and all activities connected with their development and use in the United States. These measures may seem drastic and far reaching, but the discovery with which we are dealing involves forces of nature too dangerous to fit into our usual concepts. For the immediate protection of the public, we further recommend the enactment of legislation along the lines of the British Red Flag Act.”


Kettering University is widely known nationally and internationally in fuel cell science and engineering. In 2003, Kettering professors’ technical paper led to the amendment of the Code of Federal Regulations article 49 (CFR-49) on the transport of fuel cell (Hazardous Materials) Dangerous Goods in the various modes of transportation. The paper addressed the issue of transportation of methanol fuel cell cartridges in a carry-on baggage into the cabin of a passenger aircraft. Under the then existing national and international laws, methanol cartridges could not be carried on board the plane. The final changes as proposed by our professors were made in 2006. Ubong has served on the U.S. Fuel Cell Council’s Committee that developed a test protocol for testing/harmonizing single proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell. Kettering University’s Fuel Cell laboratory is known for its work on high temperature PEM fuel cell, directed by Ubong, and Solid Oxide fuel cells, directed by DiGiuseppe. Kettering’s fuel cell program is 15 years old.