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2020 Annual Merit Review Awards

Each year, the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office (HFTO) presents awards for outstanding contributions to the overall efforts of the DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program and for achievements in specific technical areas.

Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program Special Recognition Awards

Karren L. More, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

This award is presented to Dr. Karren L. More of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for consistently exceptional performance within HFTO and its predecessor programs for well over a decade. Her extensive experience with a variety of state-of-the-art electron microscopy techniques has enabled unprecedented levels of insight regarding a variety of polymer electrolyte fuel cell materials including catalysts, supports, ionomers, gas diffusion layers, and membrane materials. The many collaborations that she has cultivated over the years with key fuel cell industry, universities, and other national laboratories has given her a reputation for unmatched fuel cell microscopy expertise and experience. She has been a key member of both the FC-PAD (Fuel Cell Performance and Durability) and ElectroCat (PGM-free electrocatalysis R&D) national lab consortia, collaborating on numerous fuel cell durability and aging studies. Her work correlates microstructural/compositional observations with accelerated stress test protocols and "real world" fuel cells, especially related to catalyst coarsening and migration, carbon corrosion, and membrane degradation. Dr. More's work is well known and vital to the entire fuel cell community, helping developers improve durability, cost, and performance of fuel cell materials. We wish her well in her new role as the Director for the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS) at ORNL.

John Christensen, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

This award recognizes Mr. John Christensen for his invaluable contributions to the demonstration and deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies within both military and civilian agencies of the federal government. As a consultant to HFTO and in his 15 years as the Energy R&D Manager for the Defense Logistics Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), he has played a pivotal role in the advancement of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. John pioneered the development and demonstration of fuel cell powered lift trucks at two DOD distribution centers and two military bases. Under his leadership, more than 90 lift trucks were demonstrated at these facilities, one of which also included a first-of-kind demonstration of on-site hydrogen fuel production via biomethane conversion. After leaving his civil service job at DOD, John continued to work on hydrogen and fuel cell technologies for HFTO as a consultant, leading an interagency working group developing demonstrations of fuel cell cars at various civilian and military facilities. John was instrumental in coordinating the demonstration of 20 fuel cell cars at an Army base and a Marine Corps base, as well as car demonstrations at the Pentagon and other federal facilities. John has helped increase awareness and collaboration by organizing federal government hydrogen and fuel cell technology monthly coordination meetings for both military and civilian agencies, as well as numerous industry–government workshops with other federal agencies. This year, John spearheaded the effort to plan the H2Rescue project, an interagency effort to develop a disaster relief truck that can assist communities after natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. Over the years, John’s innovative efforts, high energy, and enthusiasm for all things hydrogen and fuel cells has been invaluable in getting government organizations and the public aware of and engaged in these technologies.

Nick Barilo, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Darlene Schuster, American Institute of Chemical Engineers

This award recognizes Nick Barilo of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Darlene Schuster of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) for their outstanding service to the hydrogen community through the establishment of the Center for Hydrogen Safety (CHS). The CHS is a global non-profit that was formed under the leadership of Nick and Darlene through a memorandum of understanding between PNNL and AIChE. Safety is a high priority and is essential to enabling the timely deployment of hydrogen technologies. The CHS is dedicated to promoting hydrogen safety and best practices worldwide. The center’s applied safety resources—such as the Hydrogen Safety Panel (first established by the DOE), first responder and code official training, and lessons learned—provide opportunities for collaboration to more than 30 member organizations. The CHS also provides value to the greater hydrogen community through outreach, conferences, and events.

Elizabeth Connelly, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

This award recognizes Elizabeth Connelly for her exceptional contributions, collaborative spirit, and dedication to DOE's HFTO. In particular, she is commended for her leadership of the 2020 Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Multi-Year Program Plan, rigorous techno-economic analyses in support of the H2@Scale initiative, and several key stakeholder workshops to advance progress worldwide. Since joining the Program, Elizabeth has routinely gone far above and beyond her responsibilities in HFTO's Systems Analysis and Infrastructure teams to support these high-priority, multidisciplinary activities. Her technical rigor has been invaluable in critical review and management of high-profile office publications and analysis projects.

Technical Program Area Awards

Hydrogen Fuel R&D

Tadashi Ogitsu and Brandon Wood, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

This award recognizes the computational materials science team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, led by Drs. Brandon Wood and Tadashi Ogitsu, for their exceptional support to the HydroGEN Advanced Water Splitting Materials and Hydrogen Materials Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC) consortia efforts. Their work on understanding interactions at interfaces and coupling models of chemical and physical processes across time and length-scales, from atomistic to bulk, is not only advancing the state of the art in computational materials science, but also guiding experimental efforts in developing advanced, high-performance materials for hydrogen production through water splitting and hydrogen storage.

Fuel Cell R&D

Piotr Zelenay, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Deborah Myers, Argonne National Laboratory, KC Neyerlin, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and David Cullen, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

This award is presented to Piotr Zelenay, Debbie Myers, KC Neyerlin, and Dave Cullen for their exemplary teamwork and technical prowess demonstrated in leading ElectroCat. These four lead a large team of scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, as well as the wider platinum group metal (PGM)-free fuel cell catalyst community. Recently, they have worked together to develop and validate PGM-free test protocols, which are essential to benchmarking and advancing the state of the art in PGM-free catalysts. Furthermore, they lead efforts to improve catalyst and electrode performance and durability and oversee an expansive effort in modeling and characterization of PGM-free catalysts. Since 2016, the team has nearly doubled the kinetic performance from 16 mA/cm2 at 0.90 V to greater than 29 mA/cm2, which is the highest PGM-free electrode performance reported at this time. The success of the consortium is a testament to the collaborative spirit and rigorous technical efforts of its leadership.

Technology Acceleration

James O'Brien, Idaho National Laboratory

This award recognizes Dr. James O'Brien of Idaho National Laboratory (INL) for outstanding leadership in the design, construction, and commissioning of a 25-kW facility for testing high-temperature electrolysis (HTE) stacks under dynamic conditions. This facility enables testing of stacks that are directly integrated with the electricity grid and thermal energy supply sources, such as nuclear power plants. It will be used to validate the performance and durability of the stacks as well as to determine the impact of HTE on nuclear power plant operation. In 2019, Dr. O'Brien and his team completed the first HTE stack test with over 1,000 hours of operations while connected to the INL grid simulation capability. In his 30 years of service at INL, Dr. O'Brien has made many invaluable contributions to thermal hydraulic and HTE materials development and stack testing.

Safety, Codes and Standards

Chris LaFleur, Sandia National Laboratories

This award recognizes Dr. Chris LaFleur of Sandia National Laboratories for outstanding commitment and contributions to the safe deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies through R&D and international cooperation in risk assessment. In her role at Sandia, Chris has worked to develop risk-informed analyses supporting development of fire codes and standards, represented the United States in hydrogen codes and standards development activities, and serves as a chair of NFPA 2, Hydrogen Technologies Code. Her collaborations with state and regional authorities, as well as industry, provide a risk-informed basis for the safe and widespread use of hydrogen technologies at scale.