Sandia’s Katrina Groth and Ethan Hecht win inaugural Robert Schefer Best Paper award

In October, Sandia National Laboratories scientists Katrina Groth and Ethan Hecht were recognized at the IA-HySafe International Conference on Hydrogen Safety (ICHS) with the inaugural Robert Schefer Best Paper award.

The award honors the late Robert Schefer, formerly a researcher at Sandia’s Combustion Research Facility, for his contributions to characterization and understanding of the hydrogen behavior when unintentionally released at conditions relevant to hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Schefer’s work has been key to the validation of numerical simulations of hydrogen behavior and the development of analytical models that capture the basic physics of these behaviors for use in codes and standards.

Groth and Hecht’s paper, “HyRAM: A Methodology and Toolkit for Quantitative Risk Assessment of Hydrogen Systems” was chosen from 167 submissions to the conference. The selection panel was comprised of seven technical experts from the ICHS scientific committee representing the countries of China, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Groth and Hecht were honored at a ceremony held at Sandia on Thursday, Nov. 19. In attendance were Schefer’s widow, Jade; Sunita Satyapal, Director of the U.S/ Department of Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO); Erika Sutherland, Technology Development Manager, FCTO; Will James, Safety, Codes and Standards Project Manager, FCTO; and Schefer’s Sandia colleagues. FCTO’s Safety, Codes and Standards project funds the risk and the hydrogen behavior work at Sandia, including the research of Schefer, and now that of Hecht and Groth.

“Bob’s turbulent combustion research was critical to successful computer modeling of hydrogen releases from day one. The entire hydrogen codes and standards community continues to reference his work, as does the scientific community in hydrogen combustion,” says Art Pontau, senior manager of Combustion and Industrial Technology at Sandia.


Sunita Satyapal congratulates Sandia researchers Katrina Groth & Ethan Hecht on their ICHS Robert Schefer Best Paper Award.

Schefer, a mechanical engineer, joined Sandia in 1981 and worked in thermofluidics, combustion physics, and reacting flow as well as hydrogen and combustion technology until his death in 2010. His research on turbulent combustion provided data that continues to be used extensively to validate models of hydrogen releases, which are needed to support the deployment of hydrogen refueling infrastructure and code development for hydrogen safety.

Groth and Hecht’s paper describes the Hydrogen Risk Assessment Model (HyRAM), a methodology and accompanying software toolkit that integrates the risk-assessment process with the detailed physics of hydrogen behavior. HyRAM enables scientifically based codes and standards for hydrogen technologies and infrastructure that are consistent, logical and defensible. The toolkit also facilitates risk-informed engineering design and decision-making processes.

“To calculate risk, HyRAM uses the physical models validated by Bob Schefer’s data,” says Jay Keller, a former hydrogen program manager at Sandia, now president of Zero Carbon Energy Solutions. “It’s very fitting that the inaugural Bob Schefer award recognizes work that was made possible by his significant contributions to the international community for hydrogen codes and standards.”