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Element One, Inc. of Boulder, Colorado, has patented unique hydrogen leak detection materials that form the basis for a wide array of very low-cost hydrogen detection systems. Applied as a thin film, or incorporated into paints and inks, the materials change color and conductivity to alert users to the presence of hydrogen at concentrations as low as 0.04%. Prototype-detection systems for several other hazardous gases—such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and chlorine—have been developed as well. This technology has the potential to dramatically reduce costs, while improving the ability to detect hazardous gas leaks.

Element One’s materials have applications in a variety of products, such as aerosol indicating paints, marking pens, decals, tapes, shrink wraps, and protective covers for piping systems. They can also be incorporated as a very low-cost sensing element in wireless detectors. Due to their low cost, these materials can be used to supplement electronic sensors and be readily deployed at potential leak sites to provide new levels of safety and economy wherever hydrogen is produced or used.

Element One has received many inquiries about novel uses for its hydrogen-indicating technology. For example, several auto manufacturers have contacted the company regarding the use of its low-cost detection technologies in the next generation of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

In 2012, Element One was named as a runner-up in DOE’s “America’s Next Top Energy Innovator” challenge—a competition among 36 companies that licensed patents from DOE’s national laboratories. Element One has completed two projects with Sandia National Laboratories, which include conducting field tests of color-changing paints and beginning to fabricate thin-film wireless sensors. This year, Element One continues to research thin film at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, working under both a memorandum of understanding and research contract at NREL’s Hydrogen Sensor Laboratory.

The Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) conducts comprehensive efforts to overcome the technological, economic, and institutional barriers to the widespread commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cells.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) success stories highlight the positive impact of its work with businesses, industry partners, universities, research labs, and other entities.

Project Overview

Positive Impact

In 2012, Element One was named as a runner-up in the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) “America’s Next Top Energy Innovator” challenge—a competition among 36 companies that optioned to license patents from DOE national laboratories. Element One signed the option agreement in order to utilize patented technology in its development of low-cost wireless hydrogen sensor networks.


Boulder, Colorado


Element One, Inc., National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories

EERE Investment


Clean Energy Sector

Sustainable transportation