It was supposed to be a day for quiet exchange of ideas within the academic community, but the first "Hydrogen Day" at Penn State became a large, animated celebration and exposition of faculty research in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. Held on February 5, 2003, just one week after President Bush's announcement of a $1.7 billion plan to have fuel cell vehicles in production and being used by a "child born today", the event drew a much larger crowd than the anticipated 50 to 100 people. Over 250 people from the university, the community, state and local governments, and 40 industries came to Penn State to learn about research in hydrogen technologies. Research by faculty in the Hydrogen Energy (H2E) Center at Penn State was displayed in forty posters on hydrogen storage, production, monitoring and safety, and on fuel cell technologies. Local media, including three television stations and several radio stations, covered the event to find out about the technical challenges being addressed by university researchers
Congressman John Peterson (R, fifth district) gave a rousing luncheon talk to the attendees, indicating that the hydrogen economy would be the next great technical revolution, one that followed the industrial and information revolutions that have transformed our society. John Petrovic, from the Department of Energy, continued the luncheon session with a summary of DOE's plans to provided increased funding for new research in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.
During the afternoon, off-campus visitors participated in tours of the research laboratories and discussions with researchers on their hydrogen related research. Tours included demonstrations of biological hydrogen production complete with fuel cells powering electrical devices in the laboratory, summaries of novel catalysts and membranes being developed at Penn State, and the Materials Research Institute (the national leader in funding in this area in the US). The day was capped off with a panel meeting focused on the biggest challenges facing the development of a hydrogen economy. The panel, moderated by Robert Santoro (Penn State), consisted of Matt Fronk (General Motors), Glenn Schrader (National Science Foundation), Richard Killmeyer (National Energy Technology Laboratory, DOE), and Professor Tom Mallouk (Penn State).
The day was rated as an unqualified success by all who attended, and there will likely be another Hydrogen Day next year to coincide with the opening of a hydrogen refueling station at Penn State in the Fall of 2004.