Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

Energy Security Solutions

Los Alamos' mission is to solve national security challenges through scientific excellence.

April 6, 2018
A closed photobioreactor system is essentially a series of plastic or glass containers for water and algae.

A Los Alamos Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow is synthesizing a carbon nanostructure at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies. In the search for the most promising properties to improve energy storage, sensors, and nanoelectronics, researchers have established a new capability to synthesize carbon nanomaterials and new approaches to generate hybrid materials from them.


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The Lab is seeking energy alternatives to propel the nation towards sustainability by seeking solutions to its dependence on oil and coal and to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Los Alamos is using its world-class scientific capabilities to enhance national energy security

With energy use increasing across the nation and the world, we apply our expertise to those areas in which energy security needs intersect with our scientific strengths and capabilities.

We tackle these challenges through fundamental scientific discovery by harnessing our experimental and high-performance computational modeling and simulation capabilities.

We partner with energy industry leaders to develop energy sources with limited environmental impacts and improve the nation’s energy infrastructure security, reliability, and efficiency.

Los Alamos has three main areas of focus in energy security

Safe and sustainable nuclear energy

As a carbon-free option, nuclear power remains environmentally attractive worldwide. This option drives a national security need for safety, waste management, and controlling the risk of proliferation.

We develop engineering and safeguard technologies for future nuclear reactor designs and fuel cycle options, detection technologies needed for global nuclear materials management, and modeling and simulation to support nuclear energy system decisions.

This work includes

  • fundamental advances in nuclear fuels
  • nonproliferation safeguards
  • reactor concepts
  • reactor waste disposition

Materials and concepts for clean energy

Our strength in materials science allows us to lead advances in sustainable energy generation, transmission, and storage.

Our efforts include smart grid technology, bio- and solar-energy production, fuel cells and advanced hydrogen storage, and high-temperature superconducting materials for electric power.

This work includes

  • science for renewable energy sources
  • superconducting cables
  • energy storage
  • fuel cells

Mitigating impacts of global energy demand growth

Global energy demand is growing rapidly, with cascading effects to our national infrastructure, the environment, and society.

We provide measuring, modeling, and predictive simulation capabilities to assist policy makers and defense and intelligence communities in understanding the impact of climate change and the changing energy demand on national security.

Our work focuses on resilient adaptations to growing energy demands, from assessment of the impacts of climate change on natural and engineered systems to the capture, use, and storage of carbon dioxide.

This work includes

  • climate change prediction
  • infrastructure reliability and security
  • greenhouse gas monitoring and measurement
  • CO2 capture and sequestration

Our scientists and engineers have expertise and perform research in a range of energy areas

  • Fuel cells
  • Hydrogen storage & production
  • Hydrogen safety codes and standards
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Unconventional fossil fuels
  • Carbon dioxide separation & capture
  • Superconductivity
  • Infrastructure analysis
  • Solid state lighting
  • Biofuels
  • Energy storage
  • Geothermal energy
  • Nuclear reactor design
  • Nuclear fuels development
  • Material behavior under irradiation
  • Nuclear waste management and disposal
  • Environmental impacts of energy systems

Los Alamos works to develop new ideas for reliable, secure, and sustainable carbon neutral energy solutions for the nation.

Recent achievements & research breakthroughs

Hydrogen fuel storage

Lab researchers developed a significant advance in hydrogen storage that makes hydrogen a more attractive fuel for vehicles or transportation modes. The technology focuses on using ammonia borane as a “chemical storage tank” for hydrogen fuel. The development could allow a vehicle to travel more than 300 miles on a single “tank” of fuel. 

Unlocking biomass

Researchers at Los Alamos and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center have found a potential key to unlock the energy from non-edible biomass materials, such as corn leaves and stalks or switch grass. The potential pretreatment method could make plant cellulose more digestible by enzymes that convert cellulose into ethanol.

Solar strides: understanding quantum dots

Research by Los Alamos scientists published in Nature documented significant progress in understanding the phenomenon of quantum-dot blinking. The team’s findings could enhance the ability of biologists to track single particles or enable technologies to create novel light-emitting diodes and single-photon sources and boost the efforts of energy researchers to develop new types of highly efficient solar cells.

Advancing nuclear fuels

Lab researchers made advances that will improve the path to producing uranium compounds, candidates for advanced nuclear fuels.

Converting carbon dioxide to fuel to combat climate change

A chemical process to remove carbon dioxide from the air and turn it into fuels was proposed by two Los Alamos scientists. To remove carbon dioxide, air would be blown over a liquid solution of potassium carbonate. The chemical would absorb the carbon dioxide, which could be turned into fuels such as methanol and gasoline through a new series of chemical reactions. 

Transparent thin films could transform solar panels

Lab researchers partnered with others to fabricate transparent thin films capable of absorbing light and generating an electric charge over a relatively large area. The semiconducting polymer materials could be used to develop transparent solar panels or new types of optical displays.

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