Antonio attends Hannover Messe!

Antonio Garcia, KTP Associate with Peak Scientific and UWS:

During the last year and half, I have had the opportunity to spend a fair share of my time travelling to attend different events related to my project. I am working at Peak Scientific and UWS on hydrogen production for high-purity, small-scale applications such as found in most chemical analysis labs. I really like the technical part of my work, but I find development activities are also interesting and exciting.

I could mention several good reasons why one should try to use as much as possible of the resources KTP projects provides us for personal development: improving your set of skills, networking, disseminating your work… But it is a more personal aspect of these activities that I wanted to write about, through a trip I took with my company manager to the 2016 Hannover Messe in Germany.

-The Messe

It is like… a huge carnival of technology, a banquet of all that’s new and shiny in today’s Engineering. Before travelling, you go into the website, try to get an idea of what to expect. Yet, you aren’t prepared. The first day you arrive at the grounds, you see trains crammed with people, the transport system struggling to cope with the traffic, and you begin to realize the sheer scale of the event. The passengers get off, start walking towards the entrance, and you start hearing the humming. It’s ten in the morning, and the grounds are already teeming with people from all around Europe, in fact all around the world.

We enter the first building, looking for the way to the Hydrogen section. The building is a big, echoing space full of commercial stands, between which neat, parallel corridors strike towards the far side. We grab a map, and start walking. It’s just the next building, we tell ourselves.

That small distance on the map means in fact more than fifteen minutes. We get out of the first building, go through the next one. On the way, we quickly pass by stands with all sorts of technology: tools, robots, computers. I briefly stop, open-mouthed, to stare at a turbine the size of a van. It’s not, by a long shot, the biggest piece of machinery on display.

-The Business

We get to the Hydrogen zone. We have arranged before the trip meetings with potential suppliers for our designs, so we spend most of the first day explaining our project and hearing proposals and suggestions. It’s the best networking experience I’ve had, coming out of an academic environment where there’s limited chances to get in contact with the business world.

The meetings are fruitful, and in between we get to walk around the Hydrogen exposition. Though only a small corner of the Messe, is still the biggest commercial hydrogen exposition I’ve seen. There’s everything from research institutes making cutting-edge materials, to hydrogen fuelling station makers, to public institutions, to some of Peak’s own competitors (we engage in civilized chat, but poker faces when they learn our affiliation).

-The Car

As the icing on top of the cake, there were several car manufacturers that offered a short test drive of a hydrogen fuel cell car. I got a Toyota model. It looks very much like a normal car. Flip a switch, and you’re good to go.

Driving a fuel cell car feels very much like a battery electric. It is eerily quiet, this takes some time to get used to, because you think the engine is dead, until you remember there’s no combustion engine. Other than this, you do hear the breeze when driving faster, and the tyres. Little else, after a while you get used to it, but it does seem like a 22nd century vehicle. The car is quite powerful, in fact the electric engine is capped to avoid damaging the tyres from too much torque. The experience leaves with the hope that one day I’ll get to buy me one of these!

-Wrapping up

In the end a fine, fine experience. We got some useful contacts, a lot of ideas, and some very geeky entertainment. It can’t stress it enough, go out there and make the most of your chances to take advantage of your development budget, you won’t regret it, and you never know if you’ll have such chances in the future!


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