Group Profile & Capabilities.... In the News .... A Bit of History .... Learning Center
The Sensors & Electrochemical Devices Group (MPA-11) conducts basic and applied research on electronic and ionic conducting materials, including the development of novel materials characterization approaches. Our research forms a basis for development in device technology and practical application of materials. Click here to view our organizational chart.
Group Profile & Capabilities
Our major projects include research on polymer electrolyte fuel cells and related conducting polymer electrochemical devices, fundamental research on catalysis, electrochemical sensor technology for chemical and biochemical detection, electrochemical applications of high temperature ceramics, acoustic nondestructive testing for chemical and biological agent detection, basic and applied work on organic electronics and electroluminescent polymers, and research on spintronics devices.
We support a suite of capabilities in materials and device development and characterization, including a clean room for device fabrication, which we use extensively in multiple collaborations with industry.
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In the News
names Garzon president
Fernando H. Garzon was recently elected president of the Electrochemical Society for the 2012-2013 term. As ECS celebrates its 110th anniversary and continues to cultivate research related to the sustainability of our planet, Garzon serves as the chief scientist and the principal representative of the society. Having taken office in May, he presides over all meetings of the executive committee, the board of the directors, and the society, while also overseeing the publications. A member of ECS since 1986, Garzon served for three years as senior vice president of the board of directors, which involved scientific coordination, meeting organization, symposium planning, and financial oversight. At Los Alamos National Laboratory, Garzon is the MPA-11 materials chemistry team leader. His current research is focused on polymer fuel cells and high-temperature, proton-conducting electrolytes. A high achiever in the field of energy science and technology, he is co-inventor of an R&D 100 award-winning, high-temperature combustion control sensor and a new class of solid-state gas sensors. He has co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications, with more than 1,500 citations. He also co-authored two Handbook of Fuel Cell chapters, edited the Solid State Ionics Devices Technical Series, and made numerous invited conference presentations. Garzon earned his PhD in materials science and engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. During his postdoctoral appointment at LANL he studied supercapacitor materials under Ian Raistrick, who is now retired. Garzon is the past chairman of the High Temperature Materials Division of Electrochemical Society, is a member of the Materials Research Society, the International Society for Solid State Ionics, and the American Ceramics Society. He also won the 2009 DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Program Award. The Electrochemical Society, www.electrochem.org, is a nonprofit educational organization concerned with a broad range of phenomena relating to electrochemical and solid-state science and technology. It has a membership of 8,000 scientists and engineers in more than 70 countries, publishes journals, and holds international biannual meetings.
Gang Wu profiled in Materials Matter
A profile of Gang Wu, including his favorite experiment, was featured in the October 2011 Materials Matter.
Graduating Class of the 5th LANL Fuel Cell Short Course
For three days in late July 2010, LANL's Fuel Cell Team hosted 12 scientists and engineers from industry, national labs, government agencies, and universities in the fifth session of our Fuel Cell Short Course. The intensive workshop included classroom lectures, hands-on lab work, and group assignments.
For more MPA-11 News, see In the News Archives
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A Bit of History - LANL and PEM Fuel Cells
It began with a Buick
By Todd Hanson, LANL
October 6, 2005
The Laboratory’s role in the development of hydrogen as an energy source began with research on its use as a transportation fuel. Utilizing expertise gained from Project Rover, a Laboratory program aimed at developing a nuclear powered rocket, Laboratory scientists in the mid-1970s converted a Buick passenger car and a pickup truck to run on hydrogen by modifying the vehicles’ internal combustion engines and storing liquid hydrogen on-board in cryogenic dewars.
By 1977, Laboratory researchers had converted a golf cart to utilize a hydrogen-oxygen phosphoric acid fuel cell for electrical power. That same year, the newly established Department of Energy awarded the first Fuel Cells for Transportation program to the then-Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. This early work, coupled with a litany of successes along the way, has made Los Alamos fuel cell research one of the longest running non-defense programs at the Laboratory.
Based on this 28-year course of research, the Laboratory holds several seminal patents required by fuel cell product developers. One of the breakthrough technologies was the development in the late 1980s and early 1990s of the thin-film, low platinum electrode for the polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell. This innovation dramatically lowered the required amount of precious platinum metal catalyst by a factor of more than 20, while simultaneously improving performance. Fuel cell manufacturers worldwide currently use this PEM approach.
Another Los Alamos innovation was a dramatically improved tolerance to hydrogen impurities, which enabled low temperature PEM fuel cells to operate not only with pure hydrogen, but also with hydrogen-rich gas streams derived from hydrocarbon fuels like gasoline, methanol, propane and natural gas.
From the beginning, Los Alamos researchers have worked closely with industry. The formal establishment of the Los Alamos/General Motors Joint Development Center in 1991 was an effort funded by General Motors and the DOE that focused on development of the electrochemical engine — a PEM fuel cell-power system fueled by methanol converted on demand to a hydrogen-rich gas.
In 2003, the program direction shifted with the focus on PEM fuel cells running on pure hydrogen stored onboard the vehicle. This change in emphasis, embodied in President Bush’s Freedom Cooperative Automotive Research and Fuel Initiative, resulted from a desire to minimize the country’s dependence on imported oil while minimizing the environmental impacts of transportation. Storing enough hydrogen onboard a vehicle to enable a 350-mile driving range has since been declared a “grand challenge.” In April 2004, a Los Alamos-led collaboration focusing on chemical hydrogen storage was awarded one of three DOE Hydrogen Storage Centers of Excellence.
Although the bulk of the Laboratory’s funding for fuel cell research comes from transportation programs, fuel cells are inherently scalable, which means they can be used to power things on a range of scales from portable electronics to homes. A fuel cell sitting beside a home, using reformed natural gas or propane, would provide not only electricity, but also waste heat that could be captured and used for home heating and hot water production.
Today, the Laboratory’s fuel cell program is working in various areas that range from attempts to extend the operating lives of fuel cell membranes to the development of low cost catalysts. For a program that began with a Buick, the technology has come along way.
History of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research at Los Alamos
Click on the thumbnail image above for a timeline detailing the important events in hydrogen and fuel cell research at Los Alamos, including photos of some of the earliest hydrogen vehicles.
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Hydrogen and Fuel Cells
Fuel cell animation
The History of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research at Los Alamos
Fuel Cells Green Power brochure (1.0MB pdf, Adobe Acrobat required)
Sensors & Micromanipulation Technology
"Sound Solutions for Safety, Health, and Security" describes the versatility of our sensors research.
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