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In the News Archives

LANL wins award for contributions to advancement of fuel cell catalyst development
Each year, the Peer Review Panel at the Annual Merit Review and Peer Evaluation Meeting reviews the hydrogen and fuel cell projects funded by DOE's Hydrogen Program. After evaluating the merit of the 2010 hydrogen and fuel cell projects, the Peer Review Panel recognized Dr. Piotr Zelenay and his team at Los Alamos National Laboratory for their outstanding contribution to the advancement of fuel cell catalyst development. Dr. Zelenay is the Principal Investigator on an advanced cathode catalyst project that recently produced several significant results. He and his team have dramatically improved the performance of non-platinum group metal (non-PGM) catalysts through optimization of synthesis conditions and addition of new precursors. The use of fuel cell catalysts containing non-PGMs could help reduce cost and accelerate commercialization of fuel cells. LANL has achieved a 100-fold improvement in non-PEM catalyst performance since 2008, exceeding the DOE 2010 target of 130 A/cm3 at 0.8 V. Dr. Zelenay and his team have also increased the durability of non-PGM catalysts under fuel cell operating conditions.

LANL Fuel Cell research cited by FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership for 7th year in a row
For the 7th year in a row, LANL fuel cell research has been cited as a top technical accomplishment by the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership. The just-released report summarizes key technical accomplishments achieved in support of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership in 2009. The partnership selected material for the 2009 Highlights of Technical Accomplishments Report from many hundreds of projects. The LANL Fuel Cell team was cited for studying the effects of impurities in both the hydrogen fuel stream and the air stream. Impurities compromise the performance and durability of fuel cells. This work is critical to help set the fuel quality specifications, determine what on-board air purification systems are required and develop in-situ recovery methods for contaminant removal. LANL has focused on the effects of H2S, NH3 and hydrocarbons in the fuel stream and SOx and NOx in the air stream.

High-tech success stories – the next generation
Postdoc fellow aims to create marketable products based on own research

Often there’s a gap between research conducted at the Laboratory and what is needed to turn that research into useful technology. Bart Raeymaekers’ job is to fill that gap, according to Dipen Sinha, Acoustics and Sensors team leader and Raeymaekers’ supervisor.

As the Lab’s first Entrepreneurial Postdoctoral Fellow, Raeymaekers is on a two-year appointment that integrates postdoctoral research with Bartcommercialization endeavors. The Technology Transferdesigned program aims to respond to a trend among students in graduate programs in science to look beyond the conventional career tracks for science doctorates.

“As EP Fellow, Bart can show us that there is a pathway to turning good research into either a product or useful technology that can benefit society,” said Sinha. “He has already identified a couple of projects that can lead to some very interesting biomedical diagnostic instruments, although those projects are meant for completely different applications.”

Raeymaekers, who holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of California at San Diego and an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, came to the United States in 2004 on a fellowship from the Belgian American Educational Foundation. While in business school, he acquired operational experience at a Web 2.0 start-up dealing with online video search and cofounded a start-up that provided quantitative trade-optimization services to institutional investors.

“The combination of a PhD in engineering and an MBA provides me with the educational background to do innovative research, as well as commercialize technology,” Raeymaekers said. “In addition, it allows me to look at a business idea from both a technical and a commercial angle.”

On the job since October, Raeymaekers has come up with new ideas that combine what he’s learned at the Lab with his previous thesis research. “One idea, if it pans out, can have a significant impact on magnetic recording technology,” Sinha said

A former semiprofessional cyclist with 13 peer-reviewed journal papers to his name, Raeymaekers hopes that his research at the Laboratory results in innovations that eventually reach commercialization and generate a revenue stream. “I also want to learn about licensing and intellectual property strategy,” he said. “My goal is to do a start-up company, hopefully with technology that is a result of the research I performed.”

— Mig Owens

Praveen Sekhar receives Outstanding Thesis/Dissertation Award
Praveen Kumar Sekhar, a post doc with MPA-11, has been awarded the 2008/2009 Outstanding Thesis/Dissertation Award from Praveen the University of South Florida. Selected from a pool of 29 dissertations, Dr. Sekhar’s dissertation “Nanomanufacturing of Silica Nanowires: Synthesis, Characterization and Applications“ was selected as one of three winners in the dissertation category. In this research, selective and bottom-up manufacturing of silica nanowires on silicon was investigated.  Silica nanowires were shown to be excellent candidates for developing multi-modal biosensors, enriching erbium emission for optical telecommunications, and fabricating polymer nanocomposites of high mechanical strength. He receives a plaque, $750, and an invitation to the awards ceremony in the Spring.  At LANL, Dr. Sekhar is applying his expertise to the development of ultra-sensitive hydrogen and robust NOx sensors.

Advances in Fuel Cells, the latest LANL Materials Research Highlights
The Fall 2009 Materials Research Highlights focuses on fuel cells and LANL's research program.

Graduating Class of the 4th LANL Fuel Cell Short Course
For three days in early August 2009, LANL's Fuel Cell Team hosted 14 scientists and engineers from industry, national labs, government agencies, and universities in the fourth session of our Fuel Cell Short Course. The intensive workshop included classroom lectures, hands-on lab work, and group assignments.

Class Photo

Fernando Garzon Elected ECS Fellow
Fernando Garzon of MPA-11 was elected a Fellow of the Electrochemical Society (ECS), in recognition of his “key contributions to the understanding of electrochemical systems including proton exchange membrane fuel cells and high temperature electrochemical sensors; for applying this knowledge to develop robust sensors; and for his dedicated service to ECS.”

Garzon, who earned his PhD in materials science and engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, is the Materials Chemistry Team Leader in the Sensors & Electrochemical Materials Devices Group (MPA-11). He has co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications, with more than 1,200 citations, and made numerous invited conference presentations. Research highlights include the first experimental determination of the thermodynamic metastability of high temperature superconductors (published in the journal Science), the development of very low surface resistance superconductor thin films for microwave applications, the invention of non-porous ceramic hydrogen separation membranes, and the development of sulfur tolerant solid oxide fuel cells. He is also the co-inventor of an R&D 100 award-winning high temperature, combustion control sensor currently being licensed to industry and a new class of solid state gas sensors. He holds seven patents in electrochemical technology and has two more pending.

Garzon also serves on the ECS Board of Directors, is the past chairman of the High Temperature Materials Division of ECS, and is a member of the International Society for Solid State Ionics and the American Ceramics Society.

The ECS Fellowship was established in 1989 to honor individual contributions and leadership in the achievement of science and technology in the area of electrochemistry and solid-state sciences and current active participation in ECS affairs. The number of active Society Fellows does not exceed 3% of the total membership of the Society. Fellows are appointed at a rate of 0.15% per year. The ECS is as an international nonprofit, educational organization concerned with a broad range of phenomena relating to electrochemical and solid-state science and technology. The Society has approximately 9,000 scientists and engineers in more than 70 countries worldwide who hold individual membership, as well as roughly 100 corporations and laboratories that hold corporate membership.

Zelenay receives Women’s Career Development Mentoring Award
Piotr Zelenay is a 2008 recipient of the Women’s Career Development Mentoring Award at LANL.

Zelenay (MPA-11) is the team leader for electrocatalysis. He is a leader in the fuel cell and electrocatalysis communities, making his guidance and support invaluable for postdoctoral researchers and early career scientists. His extensive background in teaching has given him superior communication skills, which enable him to convey his knowledge to early career staff and to be an effective representative of the Fuel Cell Program. He guides early career staff who are taking on responsibilities that are important for their career advancement, such as proposal writing, establishing and maintaining collaborations, and managing the work of others. Christina Johnston (MPA-11) nominated him.

The awards, given by the Women’s Diversity Working Group, recognize employees who exhibit exemplary informal or formal mentoring. The award acknowledges the importance of mentoring in enabling career development, and recognizes the time, energy, and support that mentors provide to their mentees.

Graduating Class of the 3rd LANL Fuel Cell Short Course
For three days in late September/early October 2008, LANL's Fuel Cell Team hosted 10 scientists and engineers from industry, national labs, government agencies, and universities in the third session of our Fuel Cell Short Course. The intensive workshop included classroom lectures, hands-on lab work, and group assignments.

Graduating class of third LANL Fuel Cell Short Course

Graduating Class of the 2nd LANL Fuel Cell Short Course
For three days in November 2007, LANL's Fuel Cell Team hosted 9 scientists and engineers from industry, national labs, and universities in the second session of our Fuel Cell Short Course. The intensive workshop included classroom lectures, hands-on lab work, and group assignments.

2nd Graduationg Class

Problem-Solving Ace
The position of “problem solver” is not officially listed on Dipen Sinha’s curriculum vitae, but a quick look at his credentials leaves no doubt that it’s an apt description.

Dipen Sinha - Problem-Solving Ace

The recipient of numerous awards for his sensor work, Sinha of Sensors and Electromechanical Devices (MPA-11) is the principal investigator in two crucial national energy security projects between Chevron Corporation and the Laboratory: noninvasive multiphase flow metering and acoustic reservoir imaging.

“Anyone in any field can come up to me with a technical problem, and if it is challenging enough and fun enough, I want to learn about that new field and solve that problem,” said Sinha. “And I believe every problem has a solution. It may be a difficult solution, but there is a solution.”

This attitude has drawn a diverse set of patrons—from medical doctors to geologists—to Sinha’s door, a situation he finds invigorating. “When they give me a problem to solve, they don’t realize they’ve done me a favor,” he explained.

Some of Sinha’s inventions for industry—Chevron in particular—include a solids flow sensor, which noninvasively detects sand in an oil bore; a device for ultrasonic imaging of particulate matter, which may revolutionize the detection of debris in oil pipelines; and an acoustic flashlight that uses sound waves like a light beam to create images underground (developed in collaboration with Cristian Pantea of MPA-11).

The atmosphere at Los Alamos, unlike that at a university or a company, allows exposure to so many diverse research areas, noted Sinha. “It’s one of the joys of working here,” he said.

Always contemplating more challenges, Sinha said his new fascination is how to mimic nature’s functionality with modern or newly invented materials. “Real-life problems are so incredibly challenging and fun,” he said. “They are very, very hard, but they still must be solved, because people need solutions. If life depends on it, we will come up with a solution.”

-Karen Kippen

Bashyam is 2007 Postdoctoral Publication Prize winner
Rajesh Bashyam, a postdoc in Sensors and Electrochemical Devices (MPA-11) is the 2007 winner of the LANL Postdoctoral Publication Prize in Experimental Sciences.Rajesh Bashyam

Bashyam was nominated by his mentor, Piotr Zelenay of MPA-11, who co-authored the award winning paper titled, “A Class on Nonprecious Metal Composite Catalysts for Fuel Cells.” The paper was published in Nature in September 2006.

According to Zelenay, “the paper reports on the development of a new class of oxygen reduction catalysts for the polymer electrolyte fuel cell that exhibits promising activity and stability.”

Bashyam’s paper was selected by a panel of Laboratory technical staff members, and the research represents a seminal contribution to the field. He will receive a certificate, monetary award, and be given the opportunity to discuss his research at an upcoming Physics/Theoretical Division colloquium this fall.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and Infrastructure Technologies funds much of the polymer electrolyte fuel-cell research at Los Alamos.

MPA-11 member receives Distinguished Performance Small Team Award
Dipen Sinha (MPA-11), along with John Russell, Otis Peterson, and Robb Hermes (TT-D), and collaborator Jacobo Archuleta (ISR-4), recently received a Distinguished Performance Small Team Award for the Strategic Alliance for Advanced Energy Solutions between Los Alamos and Chevron Corporation. The team partnered with Chevron Corporation to address critical energy security issues. This partnership led to three significant successes: Swept-Frequency Acoustic Interferometry (SFAI), Trapped Annular Pressure (TAP), and Inficomm.

Sinha is project leader for SFAI, which applies acoustic spectroscopy to several important oil field problems, including diagnostics showing the proportion of oil, gas, sand, and water produced in a well and separation of this stream with noncontact methods and without the use of chemicals; and oil field diagnostics that help locate deposits that are increasingly difficult to find and extract.

The team used TAP to identify a solution for ruptured deep sea well casings when super-heated oil and gas were extracted in near-freezing water. Each rupture cost approximately $100 million per lost well. Inficomm technology, developed for defense customers to secure wireless battlefield communications, revolutionized the oil industry’s ability to map real-time performance of an entire oil field, predict extraction efficiencies, and prioritize sites for new drilling.

Graduating Class of the first LANL Fuel Cell Short Course
For three days in August 2007, LANL's Fuel Cell Team hosted 15 scientists and engineers from industry, national labs, and universities in the inaugural Fuel Cell Short Course. The intensive workshop included classroom lectures, hands-on lab work, and group assignments.

Graduating class of the first LANL Fuel Cell Short Course

Materials Research Highlight
Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell durability
Energy efficient, clean fuel cells have the potential to replace the vehicle’s internal combustion engine. Specifically, with fast-start capability and low temperature operation, the polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell is the current focus for light-duty vehicles. The durability of fuel cell systems, however, has not been established. To be commercially successful, fuel cell power systems must be as durable and reliable as current automotive engines, i.e., a 5,000 hour lifespan and functionality over a range of vehicle operating conditions (-40° to +40° C ambient temperature). Click here to read about our work.

LANL Fuel Cell Article Most-Downloaded
According to Fuel Cells, a bimonthly publication from Wiley Interscience, the most downloaded article for 2005 was "The Chemical and Structural Nature of Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell Properties," co-authored by Mike Hickner, a former Graduate Research Associate with the Fuel Cell Team (currently on staff at Sandia National Labs) and Brian Pivorar, Team Leader of the LANL Fuel Cell Team. Fuel Cells, lauched in 2001, is the first and only scientific journal encompassing all types of fuel cell research, from fundamental research to applied engineering.

LANL Fuel Cell Work Recognized
Los Alamos research efforts were selected as four of the Top Ten Research Accomplishments in 2005 by the Freedom Cooperative Automotive Research (FreedomCAR) Fuel Cell Technology Team. In addition, two of the remaining selected accomplishments by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory are LANL collaborations. These accomplishments were presented to the directors of FreedomCAR on October 4 in Detroit. The four selected Los Alamos research accomplishments address the key barriers to commercialization of polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells, namely cost and durability. The selected accomplishments recognized LANL's work to identify fundamental mechanisms related to PEM fuel cell durability, the development and testing of non-platinum oxygen reduction catalysts with improved high-current activity, LANL's studies in the effects of subfreezing conditions on PEM fuel cell durability, and LANL's development of a single-cell testing protocol with the U.S. Fuel Cell Council and completion of round-robin testing. These accomplishments were of direct benefit to industry. The presentation to the FreedomCAR directors noted that the LANL demonstration of the affect of reactant humidification on platinum catalyst particle size growth "partially invalidates GM 2004 concern about catalyst durability in high temperature membranes (at low relative humidity)." The first of the two collaborative accomplishments recognized Brookhaven National Laboratory for the BNL/LANL collaboration on low-platinum oxygen reduction catalysts [with LANL-made membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs), using the BNL catalyst]. The second collaborative accomplishment recognized Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the ORNL/LANL collaboration for TEM imaging of new and used fuel cell components. 

Borup Contribution Recognized By DOE
Rod Borup, a team leader in MPA-11's fuel cell program, was honored at the 2005 DOE Office of Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and Infrastructure Technologies' (OHFCIT's) Annual Merit and Peer Review as principal investigator for the most significant research and development contribution of the year. He received the award based on his team's work in fuel cell durability. In comments at the award ceremony, JoAnn Milliken, Chief Engineer of OHFCIT, noted the importance of LANL-initiated testing under simulated automotive drive cycles, the development of accelerated test methods, and the scientific excellence shown in determining and disseminating the underlying causes of performance degradation. Contributors to this effort include John Davey, Fernando Garzon, Mike Inbody, and David Wood III.

Technology Maturation Funding Received
LANL's Technology Transfer Division has provided funds to John Ramsey and Piotr Zelenay of MPA-11 to reduce to practice a new direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) design that promises to significantly increase power density, thus making the DMFCs suitable for portable power systems. Potential applications include portable electronics, as well as military and homeland security uses.

Fuel Cell Team to Participate in European FCTESQA Project
LANL's Fuel Cell Team has received funding to participate in the European Commission's newly-funded Fuel Cell Testing, Safety and Quality Assurance (FCTESQA) Project. Team members will modify existing single-cell testing protocols and will develop new procedures to test the effect of selected contaminants on fuel cell performance. This activity supports the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy, and is essential to the development of internationally-recognized fuel quality testing procedures. MPA-11 project members include Fernando Garzon, Francisco Uribe, and Tommy Rockward.

MPA-11 Garners Director's Postdoctoral Fellow
Christina Johnston is one of three new Director’s Postdoctoral Fellows to join MPA. Johnston arrives from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she used scanning tunneling microscopy to investigate the structure of nanosized metal deposits (ruthenium, osmium, platinum) on platinum(111) and gold(111) substrates in an electrochemical environment, electrochemical methods to determine the catalytic activity of admetal-modified platinum, gold, and osmium substrates for methanol electro-oxidation, and evaluated potential enhancement mechanisms.

Mukundan Wins Young Investigator Award
MPA-11’s Rangachary Mukundan has won the Electrochemical Society 2005 J.B. Wagner Young Investigator Award for outstanding research in high temperature materials science and technology. He will receive the award at the society’s next meeting in Los Angeles. Mukundan has been working on the Fuel Cell Freeze/Cold Operation Task and providing materials science and characterization support. Last year he was the principle investigator on the group’s carbon monoxide sensor task. The award, established in 1998, "recognizes a young member of the Society who has demonstrated exceptional promise for a successful career in science and/or technology in the field of high temperature materials."
For photo of Mukund receiving his award, click here.

Laboratory creates hydrogen and fuel cell research institute
Building on more than 25 years experience in the area of fuel cells, Los Alamos National Laboratory announced, on 19 May 2004, the creation of the Institute for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research (IHFCR) to better address technical issues and provide solutions for enabling key aspects of the hydrogen economy and broadening the use of fuel cells. The Institute is a partnership between the Laboratory's Chemistry and Materials Science and Technology divisions. Bill Tumas, group leader of the Laboratory's Actinides, Catalysis and Separation Group, will be the institute director and Ken Stroh, program manager for hydrogen and fuel cell programs, will be the deputy. Institute research will take place in existing facilities.

Distinguished Performance Team Award
A Distinguished Performance Team Award went to the MPA-11 Palm Power team led by Piotr Zelenay for their outstanding accomplishment in developing prototype Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (DMFC) systems to provide 20W portable soldier power for the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Palm Power Project. Members of the honored team are: Eric Brosha, John Davey, Christian Eickes, Robert Fields, Francois Le Scornet, Dennis Lopez, Piotr Piela, Bryan Pivovar, Geraldine Purdy, John Ramsey, John Rowley, Mahlon Wilson, Christine Zawodzinski, Piotr Zelenay, and Yimin Zhu.

'Science guy' takes a test drive
Bill Nye "the Science Guy" (photo at left) took a Laboratory built fuel-cell powered scooter out for a spin during a visit to the Laboratory last week. Nye, shown with Ken Stroh, standing, of MPA-DO, visited Los Alamos to learn about Lab programs and technologies. Nye is developing a new Public Broadcasting System program for adults. While at the Lab, he learned about the Lab's fuel cells technology program, transportation modeling and simulation and also visited Bradbury Science Museum downtown. Photo by LeRoy N. Sanchez, Public Affairs.

Mahlon Wilson Receives Distinguished Licensing Award
Mahlon S. Wilson (MPA-11) is the recipient of the 2000 Distinguished Licensing Award. Wilson's work in fuel cell technology is widely recognized by industry and researchers around the world. His work on hydrogen fuel cells has led to collaborative agreements with industry in support of the technology. He has been extremely effective in educating companies about his fuel cell work, and in many cases set the groundwork for attracting licensees. His dedication to this field has resulted in 15 patent applications being filed, from which the Laboratory has received 10 patents, and his work has resulted in seven commercial license agreements.

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