Off the Shelf: Matthew Eisler

February 25, 2013

Matthew N. Eisler, “Overpotential: Fuel Cells, Futurism, and the Making of a Power Panacea.” Rutgers University Press.

It sounds so simple: Just combine oxygen and hydrogen in an electrochemical reaction that produces water and electricity, and you'll have a clean, efficient power source.

Yet scientists have spent decades – and billions of dollars in government and industry funding – developing the fuel cell. There have been successes and serendipitous discoveries along the way, but engineering a fuel cell that is both durable and affordable has proved extraordinarily difficult.

“Overpotential” charts the twists and turns in the ongoing quest to create the perfect fuel cell. By exploring the gap between the theory and practice of fuel cell power, Eisler, a University of Virginia historian of science and technology, opens a window into broader issues in the history of science, technology and society after World War II, including the sociology of laboratory life; the relationship between academe, industry and government in developing advanced technologies; the role of technology in environmental and pollution politics; and the rise of utopian discourse in science and engineering.

Eisler joined the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Department of Engineering and Society in 2012, after a postdoctoral fellowship at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. His research focuses on the political economy, culture and discourse of science-based innovation, particularly in the energy and transportation sectors.

Eisler earned a doctorate in the history of science and technology at the University of Alberta in 2008. He held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Western Ontario’s Department of History and at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara, as well as the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s Center for Contemporary History and Policy.

Media Contact

Anne E. Bromley

University News Associate Office of University Communications