Introducing Mechanical Engineer Thomas Wallner – Researching the Future of Transportation

bridges, vol. 32, December 2011 / News from the Network: Austrian Researchers Abroad

By Manuel Froschauer

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Thomas Wallner, a mechanical engineer by training and a principal investigator at Argonne's Center for Transportation Research, has been "in hydrogen for the last 12 years," as he puts it. Wallner is doing research in the area of alternative fuels, with a special focus on hydrogen internal combustion engines (H2ICE), a technology that should eventually pave the way for fuel cell cars.


wallner_omnivorous_engine2_small_mf_120811.jpgThomas Wallner working on the “Omnivorous engine”

"Hydrogen is an exotic research area, with only a handful of laboratories worldwide working on it. This gives you the opportunity to do a lot of things that are very novel," Wallner says. From initially working exclusively on hydrogen, which is the simplest element and the most plentiful gas in the universe, Wallner has also spread to additional research areas.These include improving engines and adapting them to use different fuels, such as the "Omnivorous Engine," which automatically calibrates itself to any mix of gasoline and alcoholic fuels.

Apart from his work, Wallner is organizing sessions at the SAE International world congress, and he is publishing frequently in SAE's engineering magazines. SAE International is a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive, and commercial-vehicle industries. Just recently Wallner was one of six who received the SAE Award as a distinguished presenter, an award received when three of your presentations are rated "outstanding" by the audience. Wallner is also a committed head of the Chicago chapter of ASciNA (Austrian Scientists in North America), a role in which he tries to support other Austrian scientists in the area and organizes a monthly cracker-barrel gathering at the Austrian Bakery . As an adjunct assistant professor at Michigan Technological University, in Houghton, Michigan, he mentors students for their master's thesis or their Ph.D. at Argonne. In addition, he has maintained good ties with his alma mater in Graz, Austria, and hosted a student from there who conducted research in his lab.

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