Energy Research

//Energy Research
Energy Research 2020-04-01T19:35:50+00:00

Supporting the Scientific Base for Competencies Essential to Sandia Missions

DOE Office of Science

The DOE Office of Science (SC) is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the U.S., providing more than 40 percent of total funding in this area. Sandia has active research programs funded by:


ARPA-E is an innovative and collaborative government agency that brings together America’s best and brightest scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.

The focus of Sandia’s ARPA-E program is to establish partnerships with universities, industry and other National Labs to create innovative energy solutions for the Nation through both maturation of industry capabilities and commercialization of our technologies.

  • Address Stationary and Transportation Energy pillars
  • Leverage differentiating facilities/capabilities and Research Foundations of Sandia Labs

Research Highlights

Sandia researchers crack the code to soot formation

By Michael Padilla

The longstanding mystery of soot formation, which combustion scientists have been trying to explain for decades, appears to be finally solved, thanks to research led by Sandia National Laboratories.

Soot is ubiquitous and has large detrimental effects on human health, agriculture, energy-consumption efficiency, climate and air quality. Responsible for significantly increased rates of cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and associated deaths, soot also contributes to millions of deaths worldwide annually, largely from indoor cooking and heating in developing nations. It leads to tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. every year, predominantly from human caused, or anthropogenic, emissions to the atmosphere. In the atmosphere, emissions of soot are known as black carbon.

“By understanding soot formation, we have a better chance of being able to reduce its dangerous emissions from engines, forest fires and cook stoves and control its production and characteristics during industrial processes,” said Sandia researcher Hope Michelsen, adding that everyone knows what soot is, but nobody has been able to explain how gaseous fuel molecules become soot particles.

She said soot formation turns out to be very different from the typical process of gas molecules condensing into a particle, instead, requiring fast chemical reactions rather than condensation.

The solution also can apply to other high-temperature conditions, such as interstellar space, where large quantities of carbon-dust particles are formed, she said.

This groundbreaking work was published in a Science magazine paper, “Resonance-stabilized hydrocarbon-chain reactions may explain soot inception and growth.” Authors include Sandia researchers Michelsen, Olof Johansson, and Paul Schrader; Kevin Wilson from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and Martin Head-Gordon from the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

The work was funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Read more.

Jon Ihlefeld is awarded the American Ceramics Society’s 2017 Richard M. Fulrath Award

Jon Ihlefeld, a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories, has been selected to receive the 2017 Richard M. Fulrath Award from The American Ceramics Society. Jon was selected by unanimous decision for his contributions to electronic ceramics research and development. This award recognizes individuals under the age of 45 that have demonstrated excellence in research and development in the ceramics sciences. Presented to 2 American researchers and 3 Japanese researchers annually since 1978, this award promotes technical collaboration among the diverse cultures surrounding the Pacific Rim. Dr. Ihlefeld is internationally recognized for his work on ferroelectrics, funded, in-part, by the Laboratory Directed Research Development Office at Sandia, dielectric integration, funded, in-part, by the Office of Electricity’s Energy Storage Program managed by Dr. Imre Gyuk, and fast ion conductors, funded, in-part, by the Office of Nuclear Energy. The award will be presented at the 119th annual meeting of The American Ceramics Society, in Pittsburg PA, October 9th, 2017.

2017 ARPA-e Energy Innovation Summit

Meet our Scientists!

Stop by the main Sandia Labs Booth #505 for an opportunity to interact with SNL scientists including:

  • Laura Biedermann, R&D, Electronic, Optical, and Nano Materials Department
  • Cliff Ho, Manager, Concentrating Solar Technologies Department
  • Hongyou Fan, R&D, Advanced Materials Laboratory

Sandia Labs Featured in the Technology Showcase

Sandia Lab / Booth #506

Through the Secure and Sustainable Energy Future Mission Area, Sandia National Laboratories seeks to support the creation of a secure energy future for the US by using its capabilities to enable an uninterrupted and enduring supply of energy from domestic sources, and to assure the reliability and resiliency of the associated energy infrastructure. SNL seeks to create an energy future that is also sustainable by using its capabilities to drive the development and deployment of energy sources that are safer, cleaner, more economical and efficient, and less dependent on scarce natural resources.

ARPA-e Award-Winning Technology Booth # 515

Accelerating Low-cost Plasma Heating and Assembly (ALPHA) Project
Demonstrating Fuel Magnetization and Laser Heating Tools for Low-Cost Fusion Energy

Partners: University of Rochester 

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Sandia National Laboratories is partnering with the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester to investigate the behavior of the magnetized plasma under fusion conditions, using a fusion concept known as Magnetized Liner Inertial Fusion (MagLIF). MagLIF uses lasers to pre-heat a magnetically insulated plasma in a metal liner and then compresses the liner to achieve fusion. The research team will conduct experiments at Sandia’s large Z facility as well as Rochester’s OMEGA facilities, and will collect key measurements of magnetized plasma fuel including temperature, density, and magnetic field over time. The results will help researchers improve compression and heating performance. By using the smaller OMEGA facility, researchers will be able to conduct experiments more rapidly, speeding the learning process and validating the MagLIF approach. Sandia’s team will also use their experimental results to validate and expand a suite of simulation and numerical design tools to improve future fusion energy applications that employ magnetized inertial fusion concepts. This project will help accelerate the development of the MagLIF concept, and assist with the continued development of intermediate density approaches across the ALPHA program.

Sandia receives ARPA-e funding to monitor plant roots for drought and heat tolerance

Multi-Modal Monitoring of Plant Roots for Drought and Heat Tolerance in the U.S. Southwest – $2,400,000

The Sandia National Laboratories team will develop a set of technologies to link below ground carbon partitioning with aboveground photosynthetic measurements. They will use microneedle sensor technology, originally developed for medical applications such as glucose level monitoring, to non-destructively measure the transport and composition of plant sap and products of photosynthesis in the field. In addition, they will measure the soil chemistry near the root zone with a micro-gas chromatograph, a device used to separate and analyze individual compounds. Using data analytics and modeling, they will link these measurements together to find aboveground proxies for below ground processes. If successful, the project will allow for the selection of improved sorghum varieties with increased root biomass without excavation of roots.

View the full release or learn more about the Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration ROOTS) projects here.

Controlled Self-Assembly in Ternary Polymers

Top Left: Schematic of ternary polymer monolayers. Top Right: AFM images of experimental systems, at different polymer fractions, compared with corresponding SCFT calculations. Bottom: phase diagram.

Top Left: Schematic of ternary polymer monolayers. Top Right: AFM images of experimental systems, at different polymer fractions, compared with corresponding SCFT calculations. Bottom: phase diagram.

Scientific Achievement

By creating a dense layer with three types of polymer molecules bound to a surface, we have demonstrated unique self-assembled patterns both theoretically and experimentally.

Significance and Impact

Programmable polymer domains can be used to template novel electronic or photonic material, for example to precisely place quantum dots for controlled energy transfer. Polymer domains on nanoparticles can control their assembly to create new responsive materials.

Research Details

  • Self-consistent field theory (SCFT) was used to calculate the self-assembled patterns and phase diagram for ternary mixtures of surface-bound polymers.
  • Ternary polymer monolayers were synthesized by polymerizing from a surface and shown to form laterally-phase separated domains in agreement with theory.