Steel and Planet Earth

Pittsburgh is a classic Rust Belt city. It’s built with steel, has an economy based on steel, and is home to one of the most recognizable professional sports franchises in the world that still proudly touts this heritage in the Steelers. It’s hard to imagine that Pittsburgh, one of the most unlikely places to be considered as the birthplace of modern-day climate science, is a leader in new, lean, and environmentally friendly technology.

Rachel Carson was born in 1907 in Springdale, PA, a small borough northeast of Pittsburgh. At Chatham University, she was described as a loner who was deeply interested in science; especially in regards to how humans, chemistry, and technology interacted with our environment. In 1962, she published a book (one of several of her publications), Silent Spring, which is one of the sources credited with the US banning the pesticide DDT. In the 1960s, a leader in the chemical industry suggested that she was, “probably a Communist.”

Ms. Carson testified about her findings before Congress after publishing Silent Spring. Then, in 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI), in response to an oil spill off of the coast of Santa Barbara, organized 85 staffers to begin the grass roots effort to increase awareness about environmental issues. On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was observed by over 20 million Americans. Nearly 50 years later, Earth Day is celebrated around the world.

Technology is the problem. Technology is the solution.

The technology advancements that have been developed for locating, extracting, refining, and distributing energy-producing fuels are astounding, and 80% of the world’s energy is still produced using fossil fuels. It is unlikely that our reliance on these fuel sources will drop significantly any time soon. The issue of course is that these fuels must be combusted in order to convert them into usable energy, and the combustion of fossil fuels in engines and generators produces CO2, a greenhouse gas. Despite varying politics on this subject, the chemistry is the chemistry. This certainly bears out Ms. Carson’s assertion that our technologies are both harmful and helpful when we change our environment.

But there are new technologies coming, being developed by new companies, that can significantly alter the economics of using alternative fuels. Fuel cells, thin-film solar panels, affordable EVs, and wind farms are examples of the strides being made that collectively will enable us to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, economically and effectively.

One of the aforementioned technologies is coming of age, propelled forward by a new company, WATT Fuel Cell. The fuel cell provides the critical link between the fuel input and its conversion to electricity. A fuel cell converts chemical energy into electricity. Fuel cells are unique in terms of the variety of their potential applications; they can provide power for systems as large as a utility power station and as small as a laptop computer. For a layman, you can think of a fuel cell as a special type of generator that converts chemical energy into electricitymuch more efficiently (that is, producing less toxic byproducts) than traditional combustion techniques, regardless of the chemical input to the fuel cell.

What does any of this have to do with Pittsburgh?

WATT Fuel Cell, located in Mount Pleasant, PA (just outside of Pittsburgh), has developed ImperiumTM, a portable fuel cell that breaks many of the barriers that have hampered the wide-scale deployment of fuel cells related to price, performance, and capacity. The applications for WATT’s fuel cell include residential, oil and gas, recreational, and micro grids, to name a few. Fuel cells are poised to become an expected component of the on premise power ecosystem.

Once again, Pittsburgh is the epicenter of change in how alternative fuels can be harnessed and deployed, and the WATT ImperiumTM will lead the way in a variety of markets. If you’d like to learn more about what is happening at WATT, and how your application could benefit from the use of ImperiumTM, please contact WATT Fuel Cell today.

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