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Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

Energy Security

Los Alamos' mission is to solve national security challenges through scientific excellence.

April 12, 2012
A closed photobioreactor system is essentially a series of plastic or glass containers for water and algae.

A closed photobioreactor system is essentially a series of plastic or glass containers for water and algae. Proponents of such bioreactors (compared to open ponds) say the growth environment can be more easily controlled; they prevent evaporation; and light penetrates through all sides of the container, which increases cell density. However, bioreactors suffer high materials and energy costs as well as mixing and gas-exchange inefficiencies; therefore scalability remains problematic.


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LANL is seeking energy alternatives to propel the nation towards sustainability by seeking solutions to its dependence on oil and coal and to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Los Alamos is using its world-class scientific capabilities to enhance national energy security

Charlie McMillan, Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory

Director McMillan on energy security

With energy use increasing across the nation and the world, Los Alamos National Laboratory is using its world-class scientific capabilities to enhance national energy security by developing energy sources with limited environmental impact and by improving the efficiency and reliability of the energy infrastructure.

LANL’s diverse energy security research enterprise has three main focus areas:

Materials and concepts for clean energy, including

  • science for renewable energy sources
  • superconducting cables
  • energy storage
  • fuel cells

Mitigating the impacts of global energy demand, including

  • climate change prediction
  • infrastucture reliability and security
  • greenhouse gas monitoring and measurement
  • CO2 capture and sequestration

Sustainable nuclear energy, including

  • fundamental advances in nuclear fuels
  • nonproliferation safeguards
  • reactor concepts
  • reactor waste disposition

Our scientists and engineers have expertise and perform research in a range of energy areas:

  • Fuel cells
  • Hydrogen storage & production
  • Hydrogen safety codes and standards
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Unconventional fossil fuels
  • Carbon dioxode separation & capture
  • Superconductivity
  • Infrastructure analysis
  • Solid state lighting
  • Biofuels
  • Energy storage
  • Geothermal energy
  • Nuclear reactor design
  • Nuclear fuels development
  • Material behavior under irradiation
  • Nuclear waste management and disposal
  • Environmental impacts of energy systems

Los Alamos works to develop new ideas for reliable, secure, and sustainable carbon neutral energy solutions for the nation.


Our funding for energy science and technology research is up from about $150 million in 2006 to $200 million in 2012.  

Recent Achievements & Research Breakthroughs

Hydrogen Fuel Storage

LANL researchers developed a significant advance in hydrogen storage that makes hydrogen a more attractive fuel for vehicles or transportation modes. The technology focuses on using ammonia borane as a “chemical storage tank” for hydrogen fuel. The development could allow a vehicle to travel more than 300 miles on a single “tank” of fuel. 

Unlocking Biomass

Researchers at LANL and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center have found a potential key to unlock the energy from non-edible biomass materials, such as corn leaves and stalks or switch grass. The potential pretreatment method could make plant cellulose more digestible by enzymes that convert cellulose into ethanol.

Solar strides: Understanding Quantum Dots

Research by Los Alamos scientists published in Nature documented significant progress in understanding the phenomenon of quantum-dot blinking. The team’s findings could enhance the ability of biologists to track single particles or enable technologies to create novel light-emitting diodes and single-photon sources and boost the efforts of energy researchers to develop new types of highly efficient solar cells.

Advancing Nuclear Fuels

Lab researchers made advances that will improve the path to producing uranium compounds, candidates for advanced nuclear fuels.

Revolutionizing Environmental Cleanup Through Advanced Modeling and Simulation

LANL leads a multi-institution team developing the next generation of modeling and simulation capability for tackling groundwater contamination problems. The project, called the Advanced Simulation Capabilities for Environmental Management (ASCEM), aims at developing next-generation, science-based reactive flow and transport simulation capabilities and supporting modeling toolsets within a high-performance computing framework to address the Department of Energy’s (DOE's) most difficult waste storage and environmental cleanup challenges.

Converting Carbon Dioxide to Fuel to Combat Climate Change

A chemical process to remove carbon dioxide from the air and turn it into fuels was proposed by two Los Alamos scientists. To remove carbon dioxide, air would be blown over a liquid solution of potassium carbonate. The chemical would absorb the carbon dioxide, which could be turned into fuels such as methanol and gasoline through a new series of chemical reactions. 

Transparent Thin Films Could Transform Solar Panels

Lab researchers partnered with others to fabricate transparent thin films capable of absorbing light and generating an electric charge over a relatively large area. The semiconducting polymer materials could be used to develop transparent solar panels or new types of optical displays.

Salt Repository Research Could Lead to New Waste Disposal Solutions

The DOE has safely disposed of defense-related transuranic waste in the underground repository at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, for well over a decade. LANL scientists are leading an effort to conduct new tests in an underground research lab at WIPP that could expand the use of salt as a disposal medium for heat-generating, high-level radioactive waste. New studies will test the geologic response of salt to elevated temperatures and will demonstrate emplacement concepts for the disposal of these wastes.

Innovations for a secure nation

Lab team makes unique contributions to the first bionic eye

Lab team makes unique contributions to the first bionic eye

The Argus II will help people blinded by the rare hereditary disease retinitis pigmentosa or seniors suffering from severe macular degeneration.

» All Innovations

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