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Los Alamos National Lab

About Los Alamos National Laboratory

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.


Los Alamos National Laboratory has the longest running fuel cell research program in the DOE complex with almost 40 years of continuously-funded work in support of the Fuel Cell Technologies Office. LANL has established capability in proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuels cells, including catalysts, catalyst supports, membrane electrode assembly (MEA) fabrication, MEA testing, and materials development and characterization.

Unique Capabilities

Anode and cathode electrocatalysis including chemical synthesis routes for non-precious metal catalysts, nano-particle and nano-wire catalysts, incipient wetness precipitation of noble metals, polymer assisted deposition for bulk powders and thin films, aerosol spray pyrolysis of powders, ultrasonic freeze-dry-derived precursors for powder synthesis, rapid expansion synthesis of ceramic supports, electron beam evaporation, and novel RF magnetron sputtering coating methods.

MEA design and fabrication including hydrogen-air polymer electrolyte fuel cells, direct-fueled fuel cells, and alkaline-membrane fuel cells.

Testing and characterization for single-cell fuel cells, electrolyzers, and fuels; simulation of vehicle drive cycle operation and shut-down/start-up; DOE FCTT Accelerated Stress Tests; and fuel-gas mixtures, including impurities at ppb levels, with steam and CO2 content at controlled temperatures.

Electrochemical sensor development and evaluation of new technologies for H2-related applications including H2 safety sensors and fuel quality analyzers.

Innovative stack design including active, passive, and air-breathing configurations for hydrogen and direct-methanol fuels, with unique innovations including passive methanol vapor feed, metal screen flow-fields, and internal direct liquid membrane hydration.

Chemical hydrogen storage and metal hydride synthesis, characterization and modeling focusing on vacancy-driven phenomena of metal hydrides and borohydride kinetics, mechanism, and reversibility.


Experimental equipment that is essential to LANL's fuel cell research is housed in 24 separate laboratories.

MEA and electrode fabrication methods including decal-transfer MEA fabrication and direct electrode structure application to polymer-electrolyte-membranes. MEA fabrication includes novel membranes (hydrocarbon, alkaline, etc.), catalyst-coated-membrane and gas-diffusion-electrode fabrication.

Experimental equipment including nearly 40 single-cell fuel cell test stands; electroanalytical characterization; bipotentiostat, rotator, and rotating ring disk electrode systems for voltammetric and electrokinetic studies; Solartron high frequency response analyzers for AC impedance conductivity measurements; segmented cell and supporting hardware for fuel cell spatial performance diagnostics.

Fuel cell materials characterization methods including environmental scanning electron microscopy for nanoscale imaging of hydrated fuel cell membrane electrode assemblies, X-ray tomography for 3-D visualization of internal structures, scanning X-ray fluorescence microscopy for determination of local chemical composition, high resolution X-ray diffraction for crystal structure and particle size determination, X-ray metrology, adsorption-desorption isotherms, IR-Raman spectroscopy (solid, liquid and gas phase), chemisorption/surface area/TPD/TPR characterization, mercury porosimetry for pore size determination, induction coupled plasma- mass spectroscopy for trace impurity analysis, high pressure-high temperature differential scanning calorimetry (for heat of mixing, heat capacity, heat of adsorption, freezing points), and high pressure-high temperature thermogravimetric analysis coupled with mass spectroscopy, gas chromatography, and IR spectroscopy for materials reaction characterization.

Photo of a TV screen mounted to the wall showing test results and lab machines surrounding the screen in a lab at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Photo of the backend of a white hydrogen car showing H2O symbols painted on the backend.