Fueling The Future
Spending summers on the Chesapeake Bay changes a person. You become more in tune with the natural world and learn the importance of conserving and protecting our natural resources. For Dan Himmelberger ‘05, it not only influenced his choice of college, but also his career path.
Dan took his first chemistry course as a freshman and worked with Professor Rick Locker to analyze water samples and monitor levels of hydrocarbon pollutants in the Chester River. Sometimes, during their expeditions to collect water samples, the two would take their fishing rods. When Professor Marteel-Parish introduced green chemistry coursework at WC, Dan was hooked. In his senior year he completed an internship at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center on the Rhode River near Annapolis.
“I wasn’t in the environmental studies program,” says Himmelberger, who double-majored in history, “but the chemistry department is especially geared towards green chemistry and environmental chemistry. That definitely shaped my direction.”
Today, Dan is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry at University of Pennsylvania, where he is part of a research team working to develop a solid fuel source to store hydrogen. The project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, seeks to develop an energy-efficient fuel storage mechanism for hydrogen-powered cars.
“There are many ways to store hydrogen,” explains Dan. “We’re working with amine-boranes, a chemical compound with a high weight percentage of hydrogen to compound. It’s energy-dense.”
With gasoline costs steadily rising, Dan thinks the public will demand alternative fuels, even as we adopt more energy-conscious lifestyles. Until hydrogen-powered cars become readily available, he says, “There are lots of things we could be doing now to save energy. If we built lighter-weight cars, it would make a huge difference.”
- Major: Chemistry
- Thesis: “Minimization of Perchlorates in Pyrotechnic Compositions”
- Research Adviser: John A. Conkling, Ph.D.