National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA celebrates Hydrogen Day across the enterprise

October 7, 2016

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Tomorrow's date matches the atomic weight of hydrogen — 1.008 — so we celebrate it as Hydrogen Day. But NNSA has more to celebrate about hydrogen than the junction of the calendar and the periodic table.

Since its discovery 250 years ago this year, the lightest element, which is the most abundant element in the universe, has been opening doors for researchers in physics, chemistry, transportation, and more. Physics research enabled by the capabilities of the nuclear weapons complex is helping scientists understand hydrogen and explore ways that it can advance technology across multiple disciplines.

Superconductors and lasers at NNSA’s labs create new opportunities to explore hydrogen’s uses. Experiments at both Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) and Jupiter Laser Facility have worked to explain what happens to hydrogen at high pressure. This work helps scientists understand physics at work inside giant planets like Jupiter. Understanding of high pressure physics also advances fusion research, materials science, and stockpile stewardship science.

As demand for energy storage grows, the need for higher-performance batteries becomes more urgent to researchers. Livermore scientists have found that lithium ion batteries operate longer and faster when their electrodes are treated with hydrogen. Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists this summer published research on pulling hydrogen from water in a transformation that could have wide potential applications in energy and electronics.

On the transportation front, NNSA’s Sandia National Laboratories are part of a partnership working to design, build, and operate a high-speed hydrogen fuel cell passenger ferry and hydrogen refueling station in the San Francisco Bay. Sandia’s Maritime Hydrogen Fuel Cell project explores hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered generators as alternatives to diesel generators for clean power in port operations. Sandia is also holding a hydrogen fuel Q&A on Reddit today.

The Energy Department, along with NNSA’s Sandia Labs and other partners, launched H2USA with the goal of widespread commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. The Hydrogen Station Equipment Performance device developed by Sandia National Laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory aims to drastically reduce the time to set up new hydrogen fueling stations. NNSA’s administrator recently tested out the possibilities of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, with enthusiastic reaction..

To reach the goal of producing hydrogen-powered cars, one of the world's largest automakers sought out NNSA’s Y‑12 National Security Complex for expertise in hydrogen storage materials and its magnetic resonance spectrometer.

NNSA’s laboratories also share the excitement from breakthroughs in hydrogen research. Los Alamos sponsors the annual Hydrogen Fuel Cell Challenge for middle and elementary school students in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to stimulate interest in science, technology, and engineering.

Learn more about the exciting work happening around the nuclear security enterprise, and about the U.S.-government-wide push for hydrogen research.

Be sure to check out NNSA Administrator Gen. Frank Klotz (Ret.) driving a hydrogen-powered car.

A hydrogen fuel station.