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Pacific Northwest National Lab

About Pacific Northwest National Lab

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is focused on DOE's missions in science, energy, environment, and national security. PNNL researchers routinely integrate across fundamental science and applied technology programs, engaging partners across the country to take on big challenges. These efforts also deliver significant economic contributions to Washington State, the Northwest region and the nation. The dedication of our people to push the frontiers of science and engineering in order to solve some of the nation's greatest challenges is a hallmark of PNNL's 50 year history.


PNNL's expertise in fuel cells research extends over 20 years. In addition to being the DOE's Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Laboratory, PNNL leverages its catalysis, materials, and engineering capabilities for the advancement of other fuel cells and the hydrogen infrastructure. PNNL's main capabilities include:

  • Catalysis: PNNL hosts the Institute for Integrated Catalysis — over 140 catalyst scientists whose work spans from fundamental to applied.
  • SOFC: Development of ceramic materials, seals, catalysts, engineered systems, and stack mechanical and electrochemical modeling.
  • Hydrocarbon Conversion: A full range of hydrocarbon, including biomass and bio-liquids conversion to, and purification of hydrogen. Includes a solar driven reforming.
  • Microchannel Technology: Development of microchannel architecture for high efficiency, compact heat exchangers, reactors and separators.
  • Hydrogen Storage: Carbon fiber vessel engineering and cost reduction, materials development and system engineering and cost modeling.
  • Characterization Techniques: Catalyst, materials, cell, stack, and system electrochemical characterization tools.
  • System Engineering and Cost Analysis: Construct and test complete integrated systems, including sulfur removal, fuel processing, hydrogen enrichment, hydrogen purification, fuel cells, heat exchange/thermal management, and balance of plant components.
  • Polymer materials and hydrogen compatibility: Unique capabilities to test polymeric materials for hydrogen compatibility over a broad range of temperatures (including cryogenic) and pressures.
  • Hydrogen Liquefaction: Development of magnetocaloric hydrogen liquefaction.
  • Hydrogen Safety: PNNL leads the Hydrogen Safety Panel and First Responder Training in the safe handling of hydrogen and fuel cells.


PNNL's capabilities are deployed across multiple laboratories and test sites.

The Physical Sciences Laboratory houses much of PNNL’s electrochemical characterization equipment, including >20 test electrochemical stands, PEMFC MEA fabrication, EIS, and up to 10-kW stack testing equipment. Several NMRs, calorimetry measurement systems, and a PZT unit are also located here.

PNNL's Applied Process Engineering Laboratory contains additional electrochemical characterization laboratories as well as microchannel testing capabilities and plasma reactors. The lab also houses a state-of-the-art magenetocaloric regenerator for use in characterizing potential magnetocaloric materials for liquefaction.

Polymer hydrogen compatibility test labs are located in the Physical Sciences Facility. A full spectrum of thermal, mechanical and spectroscopic techniques, rheology equipment, and hydrogen permeability measurement systems are available.

The HAMMER facility is where our hands-on first responder training is done. The site includes a vehicle "prop" which can be ignited to simulate a car accident to train first responders in how to safely put out a hydrogen vehicle fire.

PNNL stewards the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory User Facility. This facility houses standard and unique materials and catalyst characterization equipment as well as the Cascade Super Computer (3.4 petaflops) and Aurora 15.8 petabyte storage. Some characterization equipment highlights are: NMRs including an 850 MHz wide-bore NMR, electron microscopes including a range of high-resolution, aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopes (TEMs) and a scanning He-ion microscope for secondary electron micrographs with extensive depth-of-focus. The environmental TEM allows gas (e.g. H2, O2, inert gas) to be introduced at the sample position at pressures up to 10 mbar and temperatures from ambient to 700°C. There is a gas cell available for the conventional TEM which can accept pressures up to ~1.5 bar and 500°C.

Photo of a microchannel reformer that is integrated with a solid oxide fuel cell

A Microchannel Reformer integrated with a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell. Photo by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Photo of two firefighters spraying water over burned cars.

First responders training with Safety Prop. Photo by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Photo of a scientist in a blue lab coat analyzing something through a large microscope in a lab.

The Transmission Electron Microscope in the Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory (EMSL). Photo by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.