WASHINGTON -- Pavan Narain Mehrotra hopes the clean-energy device he built and tested will someday eliminate the need to burn fossil fuels to produce electricity.
It already has earned him a few minutes with President Barack Obama.
Mehrotra, 18, of Simi Valley, and other young inventors from across the country met with Obama at the White House on Tuesday and told him about their inventions. The 40 students were finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search, which honors high school seniors with exceptional promise in math and science.
"It was surreal," Mehrotra said of meeting Obama. "When he first walked in, I couldn't believe he was just right there in front of me."
Obama shook hands with each student, asked where each was from and expressed the importance of science and technology, Mehrotra said.
Mehrotra, a senior at Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth, developed his invention during a summer job with Teledyne Scientific and Imaging. The device uses two kinds of fuel cells to generate electrical power. The conversion process combines a yeast microbial fuel cell that runs on biomass with a direct alcohol fuel cell that runs on the alcohol generated by the yeast.
Teledyne had the idea for the device, which was already under contract. The original design had been completed but involved only a single fuel cell. Mehrotra's job was to help complete and test the device with dual fuel cells.
"Ever since I was little, I've loved science," said Mehrotra, the son of Sunita and Vivek Mehrotra. "I like how it explains just how things work and how it's applicable to solving problems. It gives you sort of a different way of thinking than any other subject does. It's also extremely logical."
Mehrotra also plays guitar, leads the school's varsity soccer team and works on cars in his spare time. He plans to study engineering in college.