Professor Profile: meet Dr. Bryan Eichhorn
Dr. Bryan Eichhorn
As a college student, Professor
Bryan Eichhorn started out on
the premed track, but found his
true calling after taking an organic chemistry class. "[Organic chemistry] was so cool that
I wanted to do that," he said.
"Graduate school is when I really fell in love with research. It
was one of the best times of my
Now in his 22nd year at the
University of Maryland, Eichhorn
primarily conducts research in
material science - the creation
of new molecules with the ultimate goal of solving the energy
and environmental issues - because he wanted his work to
tackle big issues and to have a
positive impact on society. One
of his latest projects focuses on
making new catalysts, a key
substance involved in many industrial processes and products.
"Catalysts are materials that
convert chemical reactions at a
lower energy barrier," Eichhorn
said. "Catalysts are used in everything, catalytic converters in
cars, for example." He has been
working for the past five years on
this specific project and hopes to
ultimately create a new catalyst
to aid development of fuel cells.
"Fuel cells are devices that convert chemical energy to electricity without moving parts," he said.
"They've been around for a long
time, but they have a lot of problems. All the problems almost
entirely come down to materials, so we do material research
to try and get that technology to
work." Eventually, he hopes that
his research can be used to develop new technologies, such as
developing cars based off of the
improved fuel cells.
Eichhorn and his team have
conducted all of their research
in labs at the University
of Maryland with the
help of several
grants from the
Department of Energy, the National
Science Foundation and the Navy.
Some of their results
have been tested
on real-world scales
with the help of Maryland engineers who create prototypes to
test the fuel cells. Interestingly,
the main focus of their research
was found inadvertently. "We
made [an accidental] discovery
on making a new catalyst that
can actually work using natural
gas in a fuel cell," Eichhorn said.
"If you can do that routinely that
can be a very useful technology."
For Eichhorn, a good part
of his job's pleasure comes from
teaching his students and preparing them to help advance
technology. "Training students
for what some call 'the third industrial revolution' is very exciting," Eichhorn stated. "Distributed power is already going away.
Everybody's going to have
personal power plants in their
house, at some point, and that's
going to require a lot of material
science and technology."
Eichhorn asserts that conducting research anywhere requires passion because it can
be frustrating as the results are
so unpredictable. "In research,
you never know what's going to
happen," he said. "You always
think you know what is going to
happen, but really something
else happens, which is why it's