Top ASU Faculty Make Research Meaningful

Top ASU Faculty Make Research Meaningful

February 27, 2004

February 26, 2004

Shrinking fuel cells may power future

Researchers at ASU are applying nanotechnology to the design of fuel cells.

Their work could lead to "several new ways of dealing with shortcomings of conventional fuel cells," says Frederic Zenhausern, director of the Center for Applied Nanobioscience (ANBC) at the Arizona Biodesign Institute.

At ANBC, Professor Don Gervasio and his team are developing micro-fuel cells for portable applications. Gervasio says the goal is to develop a complete micro-power system for battery applications that would include a fuel cell subsystem, a battery and controller. Pound for pound, it would supply more energy than batteries alone, Gervasio says.

Power outages in the United States have many people re-examining electrical generating systems that would be more flexible, cleaner and less prone to major catastrophic failure. One energy source that could fill these needs is fuel cells.

Fuels cells cleanly and quietly generate electric power by passing fuels like hydrogen over one electrode while passing air over a second electrode. But their development has long been dogged by costs of the technology as well as safety concerns.


Jacobs aims to fight smallpox safely

ASU virologist Bertram Jacobs has received a $5.5 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health's Biodefense Partnership Program to develop and test a modified smallpox vaccine.

The current smallpox vaccine, though very effective in providing immunity, relies on using the live vaccinia (once called "cowpox") virus that is itself deadly dangerous to a small percentage of the people that would be vaccinated. Jacob's modified vaccine is expected to be identical in effectiveness to the current vaccine while being "treatable" for dangerous reactions.

ASU will develop the modified vaccinia virus and do preliminary animal testing; Virax Holdings Limited, an Australian biomedical corporation will create a clinical-grade vaccine from ASU stocks; the New York Blood Center and Beth Israel Hospital will do further testing and human clinical trials.

Working with a strain of vaccinia that is known to be highly effective against smallpox, Jacobs' team aims to add genes to the virus that will give it a hidden weakness: susceptibility to a common, widely tolerated antibiotic or anti-viral drug. The modifications will not change the virus's effectiveness in immunizing against smallpox, but will give doctors a sure and effective way to treat it in rare cases where it causes serious illness.


Written by: Joe Caspermeyer