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About Oak Ridge National Laboratory

As DOE's largest multi-program science and energy laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory possesses scientific and technical capabilities that span basic and applied research in fields ranging from fundamental nuclear physics to applied research and development on advanced energy systems. The Tennessee lab's mission is to deliver scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs that will accelerate the development and deployment of solutions in clean energy and global security, thereby creating economic opportunity for the nation. Payroll and procurement tops $1 billion annually.


Oak Ridge National Laboratory performs research that addresses the barriers facing the development and deployment of hydrogen and fuel cells, with the ultimate goals of decreasing dependence on petroleum, reducing carbon emissions, and enabling clean, reliable power generation. Through collaborative research and development, ORNL is creating materials and technologies to establish a hydrogen infrastructure and for hydrogen storage onboard vehicles. As part of these efforts, researchers are developing steel-concrete composite underground storage tanks and low-cost carbon fiber.

Core Competencies

  • Novel in situ characterization methods and advanced electron microscopy for critical electrode materials for proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC)
  • Electronically conductive, corrosion resistant coatings for stamped metallic bipolar plates
  • Hydrogen reformer outlet gas analysis and correlation to PEMFC operating conditions and reaction kinetics
  • Expertise in the study of hydrogen permeation through the walls of carbon fiber composite pipelines and onboard storage tanks
  • Economical approaches to large-scale, stationary hydrogen storage tanks such as metal-lined, steel-reinforced concrete designs
  • Low-cost polyacrylonitrile precursors for carbon fiber composite onboard storage tanks
  • Modeling of the impact of stationary and transportation fuel cells on society, including technical feasibility, environmental risk, financial risk, and economic compatibility with national and international policies


Fuel Cell Evaluation Facility

Fuel cell characterization and evaluation at the National Transportation Research Center is aimed at supporting the development of this technology by analyzing fuel cell behavior under typical operating conditions. The five fuel cell test stands are fully automated to control flow rates, humidity, electronic resistance, and temperature. An environmental chamber is available for evaluation down to -40°C, and a wide range of fuel cells can be evaluated, from small-scale prototype fuel cells, less than 5 cm2; to large-scale, full-size systems up to 3 kW. Electrochemical analytical tools are available for measuring polarization curves, implementing drive cycles, performing cyclic voltammetry and impedance spectroscopy, and supplying up to 80 A and 3 V for regenerable fuel cell operation (electrolysis). Additionally, the research facility is equipped with long-term battery backup systems to ensure uninterrupted power during durability evaluations.

Additional Information