Skip to main content

Los Alamos National Lab

About Los Alamos National Lab

Founded during World War II as a home for the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos National Laboratory is dedicated to solving national security challenges through scientific excellence. That includes using the New Mexico lab's world-class scientific capabilities to enhance national energy security. Los Alamos has a budget of $2.1 billion and more than 10,000 employees, making it one of the largest scientific and technology institutions in the world.


Next-generation biofuels are being developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). LANL has extensive expertise in bioenergy technologies and a strong knowledge of bioenergy industry needs. LANL scientists have access to the New Mexico Consortium (NMC) Biological Laboratory and are working to bring cellulosic ethanol (made from the inedible parts of plants, instead of corn) and algae-based fuels to the marketplace in ways that make them economically competitive with fossil fuels and prevent a strain on valuable food crops.

Unique Capabilities

Algae biotechnology including sequencing, metagenomics, bioinformatics, pathway engineering, flow cytometry, image cytometry, cell sorting, molecular biology, as well as lipid, protein, and carbohydrate analysis.

Algae cultivation research and development on algae cultivation monitoring systems and CO2 delivery to algae cultivation systems.

Algae feedstock research and development including harvesting, extraction, oil separations.

Plant physiology, biology, and biotechnology for terrestrial feedstocks.

Biochemical and thermochemical conversion including both experimental (synthetic organic chemistry, isotopic analysis, organo-metallic chemistry, novel catalyst R&D) and computational (protein and enzyme structure-function analysis and molecular dynamics modeling) components.

Expertise and Techniques

More information on LANL's bioenergy technologies expertise, accomplishments, and personnel can be found at


LANL has a network of equipment and facilities to support bioenergy research, both within LANL and at the nearby NMC.

NMC Biological Laboratory including wet laboratory facilities, specialized laboratories, and algae and plant cultivation and biotechnology facilities.

Algae and plant cultivation facilities including mid-scale cultivation ponds in the 4000-square-foot NMC research greenhouse, as well as the photobioreactor (PBR) matrix, consisting of 33 500-ml Phenometrics ePBRs that simulate a microalgal biofuel pond production environment with control of depth, light, turbidity, pH, temperature, and gas delivery.

Flow cytometers including a full-capability flow cytometry and cell-sorting lab housed in the New Mexico Consortium Bio-lab.

Ultrasonic Algal Biofuel Harvester, a unique algae harvesting device developed at LANL that uses sound waves to gently agglomerate and settle live algae out of the cultivation solution for dewatering and harvesting. Other ultrasonic-based technologies for manipulating algae are also being developed.

Los Alamos Genome Center, which houses the newest sequencing technologies primarily focusing on sequencing pathogens, environmental microorganisms, and microorganisms useful to bioenergy research. Los Alamos has unique expertise in microalgae genomics, transcriptomics, and bioinformatics.

Protein crystallography facility, which uses neutron diffraction techniques to perform groundbreaking work in understanding enzyme structure and function, as well as elucidating the structure of cellulase and other enzymes useful for the production of algae- and lignocellulosic-based biofuels.

Analytical capabilities including NMR, and X-ray and neutron diffraction techniques to gain advanced understanding of protein structures and their functions.

Photo of a yellow building to the left and the New Mexico Consortium green house to the right. This building is part of Los Alamos' algae and plan cultivation facilities.
Photo of scientist analyzing algae in the ultrasonic algal biofuel harvester.