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New alternative fuel paths await professor, studen...

New alternative fuel paths await professor, student (+VIDEO)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Dr. Cliff Ricketts and MTSU senior Aras Alexander find themselves at crucial junctures in their careers in alternative fuels.

The 64-year-old Ricketts, an agriculture educator and alternative fuels researcher, figuratively sits atop one of those breathtaking mountains east of the Los Angeles area.

MTSU senior Aras Alexander of Houston, Texas, answers questions from KABC Los Angeles photojournalist Jim Brown on March 15. Alexander provided a student perspective on the cross-country, no-gas trip spearheaded by alternative fuels researcher Cliff Ricketts. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

MTSU senior Aras Alexander of Houston, Texas, answers questions from KABC Los Angeles photojournalist Jim Brown on March 15. Alexander provided a student perspective on the cross-country, no-gas trip spearheaded by alternative fuels researcher Cliff Ricketts. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

Alexander, 37, a nontraditional student from Houston, Texas, is just beginning to map out a career in alternative fuels. Last fall in an alternative fuels class and during MTSU’s spring break, he has been mentored by Ricketts and others who are involved in the professor’s hydrogen project.

Since March 8, both Ricketts and Alexander have been together with eight others in Ricketts’ quest to drive 2,600 miles across the country on sun and hydrogen from water, and not use any gasoline paid for at the pump. They reached their goal March 14 in Long Beach, Calif.

(For a complete recap of the journey, click here to read News and Media Relations staffer Randy Weiler’s blog posts.)

“This experience has been absolutely amazing,” Alexander said, “I have learned a lot. I’ve learned how hydrogen tanks actually push the car, especially a car uphill. Like all cars, we’re in the developing stages. We’ve had a couple of hiccups. We got them fixed and we kept on truckin’. We learned that sun and water can get us from coast to coast.”

For Ricketts, after this tremendously successful ride across the country, hydrogen research will remain a key element, but look for him to branch into other alternative fuel areas.

“I’m looking at a couple of energy sources for the trucking industry,” Ricketts said. “One is green algae. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel on anything, but we will give it a serious look. And we’re also looking at another thing that kind of relates to a chemical reaction that produces steam that can be an answer for the trucking industry.”

As MTSU professor Cliff Ricketts, right, observes, Los Angeles KABC TV 7 photojournalist Jim Brown films the steam that comes out of the tailpipe on the 1994 Toyota Tercel, one of two vehicles used in the 2,600-mile coast-to-coast trip. MTSU's team spent about two hours after Toyota of Huntington Beach extended the invitation to Ricketts. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

As MTSU professor Cliff Ricketts, right, observes, Los Angeles KABC TV 7 photojournalist Jim Brown films the steam that comes out of the tailpipe on the 1994 Toyota Tercel, one of two vehicles used in the 2,600-mile coast-to-coast trip. MTSU’s team spent about two hours after Toyota of Huntington Beach extended the invitation to Ricketts. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

With regard to hydrogen, Ricketts said one of the main questions he encounters is “how do we get this nationwide?” He added that he would be available as a resource to the federal government. “We’ve accomplished our objective. … Now we’ve got to go back and firm up a few things,” he said.

Alexander was one of about 21 students who took Ricketts’ alternative fuels class last fall. He quickly agreed to travel on this spring break trip when asked by Ricketts.

“One of the reasons why I wanted to go on this trip was to not only learn from Dr. Ricketts, but I also felt I like would have the opportunity to experience what MTSU was offering me, but also what I could offer MTSU, and I see a great future in this through this experience.”

After being invited to Toyota of Huntington Beach to visit with key officials Friday morning, Ricketts and the rest of the team began heading east just after noon PT. They spent the night in Las Vegas and crossed the Hoover Dam on Saturday. He anticipates returning to Murfreesboro and the MTSU campus between 2 and 3 p.m. Monday.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)


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