WPI's Kelly Jaramillo Studies Fuel Cells in Summer Internship

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. - Kelly Jaramillo of Belen, N.M., a junior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass., is among 30 students from across the country who completed a 10-week internship thanks to a Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship, a minority education initiative through the U.S. Department of Energy. The internship took place in Morgantown, W. Va., at the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

"I absolutely loved it," Jaramillo said. "Every day I learned something new. Mostly, I researched the different types of fuel cells available on the commercial market. I tried to understand what each of their strengths and weaknesses were, what type of fuel each required, efficiencies, operating restrictions, etc. I primarily focused on solid oxide fuel cells."

The internship provided some hands-on research into a topic that is becoming more important in today's world.

"Fuel cells provide a highly efficient alternative to the world's current excess energy consumption methods," Jaramillo explained. "Their only problem-you can't simply drive your fuel cell car up to a gas station and pump gasoline into it and expect it to work. Fuel cells require 'reformed' fuel, which is basically a purified fuel. I researched several fuel-reforming methods-catalytic steam, partial oxidation, autothermal and plasma reforming. After performing all of this research, as well as doing some laboratory research that involved desulfurization of fuel, I produced a technical paper and a video presentation."

Jaramillo is double majoring in mechanical engineering and international studies at WPI, where she has received the Most Outstanding Freshman Award through the Skull Honor Society, as well as leadership and community service awards from WPI's Excellence in Mathematics, Science and Engineering Program (EMSEP). In addition to EMSEP, she is a member of Astronomy Club, Air Force ROTC, Women On Women's Issues, Outing Club, Dance Club and Hoop Dreams, a volunteer group that helps inner-city children realize college aspirations.

Last spring she received the American Legion Award for Scholarship Excellence, the Kenneth J. Kublins Memorial Award, the Military Order of the World Wars Award and the Air Force USAA Spirit Award.

Founded in 1865, WPI enrolls 2,700 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students in science, engineering, management, humanities and arts, and social sciences. Under the WPI Plan, undergraduates complete three projects focusing on their major course of study, the humanities, and the interactions among science, technology and society.