From The DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory And The Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science At The University of California-Los Angeles: “UCLA-Led Study Could Be Step Toward Cheaper Hydrogen-Based Energy”

From The DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory


The Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science


UCLA bloc

The University of California-Los Angeles


Researchers devise method for predicting performance of catalysts in fuel cells.

The research group is now collaborating with Toyota Motor Corp. to develop fuel cell catalysts with possible real-world applications. (Pictured: Toyota hydrogen fuel cell concept vehicle, 2019. Unsplash/Darren Halstead)

A study led by UCLA researchers could help accelerate the use of hydrogen as an environmentally friendly source of energy in transportation and other applications.

The team developed a method for predicting platinum alloys’ potency and stability — two key indicators of how they will perform as catalysts in hydrogen fuel cells. Then, using that technique, they designed and produced an alloy that yielded excellent results under conditions approximating real-world use. The findings are published in the journal Nature Catalysis [below].

“For the sustainability of our planet, we can’t keep living the way we do, and reinventing energy is one major way to change our path,” said corresponding author Yu Huang, a professor of materials science and engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering and a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA. “We have fuel cell cars, but we need to make them cheaper. In this study, we came up with an approach to allow researchers to identify the right catalysts much faster.”

Fuel cells generate power using oxygen from the atmosphere and hydrogen. A key step in the process is using a catalyst to break the bonds between pairs of oxygen atoms. The catalysts that work best are highly active, in order to drive the reaction, while also being stable enough to be used for long periods of time. And for those designing fuel cells, finding the best catalysts has been a major challenge.

Platinum is the best element for the purpose, but its rarity makes the technology prohibitively expensive for large-scale adoption. An alloy combining platinum with a more readily accessible metal or metals would reduce the cost, but there has never been a practical, real-world method for quickly screening which alloy would make the best catalyst.

As a result, advances in the technology have come through trial and error so far.

“This is a decisive step forward toward the rational design, down to the microscopic scale, of catalysts with optimal performance,” said Alessandro Fortunelli of Italy’s National Research Council, a co-corresponding author of the paper. “Nobody has ever come up with a method, either theoretical or experimental, to predict the stability of platinum alloy catalysts.”

The new method predicts both the potency and the stability of platinum alloy catalysts. It was developed using a combination of experiments, complex computation and X-ray spectroscopy, which allowed the investigators to precisely identify chemical properties.

The researchers then created catalysts combining precise amounts of platinum, nickel and cobalt in a specific atomic structure and configuration based on their experimental measure. They showed that the alloy they designed is both highly active and highly stable, a rare but much-needed combination for fuel cell catalysts.

Huang said that the method could be applied to potential catalysts mixing platinum with a subset of metals beyond nickel and cobalt.

The paper’s other co-corresponding authors are chemist Qingying Jia of Northeastern University and theorist William Goddard of Caltech. Huang, whose UCLA laboratory was primarily responsible for designing and testing the catalyst, said the collaboration with scientists and engineers at other institutions was vital to the study’s success.

“Lacking any of these partners, this work would be impossible,” she said. “For a long-term, curiosity-driven collaboration such as this one, the most important thing is to have the right people. Every single one of us was focused on digging deep and trying to figure out what’s happening. It also helped that this was a fun team to work with.”

Huang’s group is now collaborating with Toyota Motor Corp. to develop fuel cell catalysts with possible real-world applications.

The study’s first author is Jin Huang, who earned a doctorate from UCLA in 2021. Other UCLA co-authors are doctoral students Zeyan Liu, Bosi Peng and Yang Liu; former graduate students Mufan Li and Sung-Joon Lee; postdoctoral researcher Chengzhang Wan; assistant project scientist Enbo Zhu, who worked on the study as both a doctoral student and postdoctoral researcher at UCLA; and Xiangfeng Duan, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry. Other authors are from the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, Italy’s National Research Council, Northeastern University and UC Irvine.

The research was supported by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation.

Science paper:
Nature Catalysis
See the science paper for instructive material.

See the full article here .


Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science is the school of engineering at the University of California-Los Angeles. It opened as the College of Engineering in 1945, and was renamed the School of Engineering in 1969. Since its initial enrollment of 379 students, the school has grown to approximately 6,100 students. The school is ranked 16th among all engineering schools in the United States. The school offers 28 degree programs and is home to eight externally funded interdisciplinary research centers, including those in space exploration, wireless sensor systems, and nanotechnology.

The University of California-Los Angeles

UC LA Campus

For nearly 100 years, The University of California-Los Angeles has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

The University of California-Los Angeles is a public land-grant research university in Los Angeles, California. The University of California-Los Angeles traces its early origins back to 1882 as the southern branch of the California State Normal School (now San Jose State University). It became the Southern Branch of The University of California in 1919, making it the second-oldest (after University of California-Berkeley ) of the 10-campus University of California system.

The University of California-Los Angeles offers 337 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a wide range of disciplines, enrolling about 31,500 undergraduate and 12,800 graduate students. The University of California-Los Angeles had 168,000 applicants for Fall 2021, including transfer applicants, making the school the most applied-to of any American university.

The university is organized into six undergraduate colleges; seven professional schools; and four professional health science schools. The undergraduate colleges are the College of Letters and Science; Samueli School of Engineering; School of the Arts and Architecture; Herb Alpert School of Music; School of Theater, Film and Television; and School of Nursing.

The University of California-Los Angeles is called a “Public Ivy”, and is ranked among the best public universities in the United States by major college and university rankings. This includes one ranking that has The University of California-Los Angeles as the top public university in the United States in 2021. As of October 2020, 25 Nobel laureates; three Fields Medalists; five Turing Award winners; and two Chief Scientists of the U.S. Air Force have been affiliated with The University of California-Los Angeles as faculty; researchers or alumni. Among the current faculty members, 55 have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences; 28 to the National Academy of Engineering ; 39 to the Institute of Medicine; and 124 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . The university was elected to the Association of American Universities in 1974.

The University of California-Los Angeles student-athletes compete as the Bruins in the Pac-12 Conference. The Bruins have won 129 national championships, including 118 NCAA team championships- more than any other university except Stanford University, whose athletes have won 126. The University of California-Los Angeles students, coaches, and staff have won 251 Olympic medals: 126 gold; 65 silver; and 60 bronze. The University of California-Los Angeles student-athletes have competed in every Olympics since 1920 with one exception (1924) and have won a gold medal in every Olympics the U.S. participated in since 1932.


In March 1881, at the request of state senator Reginaldo Francisco del Valle, the California State Legislature authorized the creation of a southern branch of the California State Normal School (now San José State University) in downtown Los Angeles to train teachers for the growing population of Southern California. The Los Angeles branch of the California State Normal School opened on August 29, 1882, on what is now the site of the Central Library of the Los Angeles Public Library system. The facility included an elementary school where teachers-in-training could practice their technique with children. That elementary school is related to the present day University of California-Los Angeles Lab School. In 1887, the branch campus became independent and changed its name to Los Angeles State Normal School.

In 1914, the school moved to a new campus on Vermont Avenue (now the site of Los Angeles City College) in East Hollywood. In 1917, UC Regent Edward Augustus Dickson, the only regent representing the Southland at the time and Ernest Carroll Moore- Director of the Normal School, began to lobby the State Legislature to enable the school to become the second University of California campus, after University of California-Berkeley. They met resistance from University of California-Berkeley alumni, Northern California members of the state legislature, and Benjamin Ide Wheeler- President of the University of California from 1899 to 1919 who were all vigorously opposed to the idea of a southern campus. However, David Prescott Barrows the new President of the University of California did not share Wheeler’s objections.

On May 23, 1919, the Southern Californians’ efforts were rewarded when Governor William D. Stephens signed Assembly Bill 626 into law which acquired the land and buildings and transformed the Los Angeles Normal School into the Southern Branch of the University of California. The same legislation added its general undergraduate program- the Junior College. The Southern Branch campus opened on September 15 of that year offering two-year undergraduate programs to 250 Junior College students and 1,250 students in the Teachers College under Moore’s continued direction. Southern Californians were furious that their so-called “branch” provided only an inferior junior college program (mocked at the time by The University of Southern California students as “the twig”) and continued to fight Northern Californians (specifically, Berkeley) for the right to three and then four years of instruction culminating in bachelor’s degrees. On December 11, 1923 the Board of Regents authorized a fourth year of instruction and transformed the Junior College into the College of Letters and Science which awarded its first bachelor’s degrees on June 12, 1925.

Under University of California President William Wallace Campbell, enrollment at the Southern Branch expanded so rapidly that by the mid-1920s the institution was outgrowing the 25-acre Vermont Avenue location. The Regents searched for a new location and announced their selection of the so-called “Beverly Site”—just west of Beverly Hills—on March 21, 1925 edging out the panoramic hills of the still-empty Palos Verdes Peninsula. After the athletic teams entered the Pacific Coast conference in 1926 the Southern Branch student council adopted the nickname “Bruins”, a name offered by the student council at The University of California-Berkeley. In 1927, the Regents renamed the Southern Branch the University of California at Los Angeles (the word “at” was officially replaced by a comma in 1958 in line with other UC campuses). In the same year the state broke ground in Westwood on land sold for $1 million- less than one-third its value- by real estate developers Edwin and Harold Janss for whom the Janss Steps are named. The campus in Westwood opened to students in 1929.

The original four buildings were the College Library (now Powell Library); Royce Hall; the Physics-Biology Building (which became the Humanities Building and is now the Renee and David Kaplan Hall); and the Chemistry Building (now Haines Hall) arrayed around a quadrangular courtyard on the 400 acre (1.6 km^2) campus. The first undergraduate classes on the new campus were held in 1929 with 5,500 students. After lobbying by alumni; faculty; administration and community leaders University of California-Los Angeles was permitted to award the master’s degree in 1933 and the doctorate in 1936 against continued resistance from The University of California-Berkeley.

Maturity as a university

During its first 32 years University of California-Los Angeles was treated as an off-site department of The University of California. As such its presiding officer was called a “provost” and reported to the main campus in Berkeley. In 1951 University of California-Los Angeles was formally elevated to co-equal status with The University of California-Berkeley, and its presiding officer Raymond B. Allen was the first chief executive to be granted the title of chancellor. The appointment of Franklin David Murphy to the position of Chancellor in 1960 helped spark an era of tremendous growth of facilities and faculty honors. By the end of the decade University of California-Los Angeles had achieved distinction in a wide range of subjects. This era also secured University of California-Los Angeles’s position as a proper university and not simply a branch of the University of California system. This change is exemplified by an incident involving Chancellor Murphy, which was described by him:

“I picked up the telephone and called in from somewhere and the phone operator said, “University of California.” And I said, “Is this Berkeley?” She said, “No.” I said, “Well who have I gotten to?” ” University of California-Los Angeles.” I said, “Why didn’t you say University of California-Los Angeles?” “Oh”, she said, “we’re instructed to say University of California.” So, the next morning I went to the office and wrote a memo; I said, “Will you please instruct the operators, as of noon today, when they answer the phone to say, ‘ University of California-Los Angeles.'” And they said, “You know they won’t like it at Berkeley.” And I said, “Well, let’s just see. There are a few things maybe we can do around here without getting their permission.”

Recent history

On June 1, 2016 two men were killed in a murder-suicide at an engineering building in the university. School officials put the campus on lockdown as Los Angeles Police Department officers including SWAT cleared the campus.

In 2018, a student-led community coalition known as “Westwood Forward” successfully led an effort to break University of California-Los Angeles and Westwood Village away from the existing Westwood Neighborhood Council and form a new North Westwood Neighborhood Council with over 2,000 out of 3,521 stakeholders voting in favor of the split. Westwood Forward’s campaign focused on making housing more affordable and encouraging nightlife in Westwood by opposing many of the restrictions on housing developments and restaurants the Westwood Neighborhood Council had promoted.




College of Letters and Science
Social Sciences Division
Humanities Division
Physical Sciences Division
Life Sciences Division
School of the Arts and Architecture
Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science (HSSEAS)
Herb Alpert School of Music
School of Theater, Film and Television
School of Nursing
Luskin School of Public Affairs


Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (GSEIS)
School of Law
Anderson School of Management
Luskin School of Public Affairs
David Geffen School of Medicine
School of Dentistry
Jonathan and Karin Fielding School of Public Health
Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior
School of Nursing


University of California-Los Angeles is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity” and had $1.32 billion in research expenditures in FY 2018.

Brookhaven Campus

One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the The DOE Office of Science, The DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

Research at BNL specializes in nuclear and high energy physics, energy science and technology, environmental and bioscience, nanoscience and national security. The 5300 acre campus contains several large research facilities, including the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider [below] and National Synchrotron Light Source II [below]. Seven Nobel prizes have been awarded for work conducted at Brookhaven lab.

BNL is staffed by approximately 2,750 scientists, engineers, technicians, and support personnel, and hosts 4,000 guest investigators every year. The laboratory has its own police station, fire department, and ZIP code (11973). In total, the lab spans a 5,265-acre (21 km^2) area that is mostly coterminous with the hamlet of Upton, New York. BNL is served by a rail spur operated as-needed by the New York and Atlantic Railway. Co-located with the laboratory is the Upton, New York, forecast office of the National Weather Service.

Major programs

Although originally conceived as a nuclear research facility, Brookhaven Lab’s mission has greatly expanded. Its foci are now:

Nuclear and high-energy physics
Physics and chemistry of materials
Environmental and climate research
Energy research
Structural biology
Accelerator physics


Brookhaven National Lab was originally owned by the Atomic Energy Commission and is now owned by that agency’s successor, the United States Department of Energy (DOE). DOE subcontracts the research and operation to universities and research organizations. It is currently operated by Brookhaven Science Associates LLC, which is an equal partnership of Stony Brook University and Battelle Memorial Institute. From 1947 to 1998, it was operated by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), but AUI lost its contract in the wake of two incidents: a 1994 fire at the facility’s high-beam flux reactor that exposed several workers to radiation and reports in 1997 of a tritium leak into the groundwater of the Long Island Central Pine Barrens on which the facility sits.


Following World War II, the US Atomic Energy Commission was created to support government-sponsored peacetime research on atomic energy. The effort to build a nuclear reactor in the American northeast was fostered largely by physicists Isidor Isaac Rabi and Norman Foster Ramsey Jr., who during the war witnessed many of their colleagues at Columbia University leave for new remote research sites following the departure of the Manhattan Project from its campus. Their effort to house this reactor near New York City was rivalled by a similar effort at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to have a facility near Boston, Massachusetts. Involvement was quickly solicited from representatives of northeastern universities to the south and west of New York City such that this city would be at their geographic center. In March 1946 a nonprofit corporation was established that consisted of representatives from nine major research universities — Columbia University, Cornell University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester, and Yale University.

Out of 17 considered sites in the Boston-Washington corridor, Camp Upton on Long Island was eventually chosen as the most suitable in consideration of space, transportation, and availability. The camp had been a training center from the US Army during both World War I and World War II. After the latter war, Camp Upton was deemed no longer necessary and became available for reuse. A plan was conceived to convert the military camp into a research facility.

On March 21, 1947, the Camp Upton site was officially transferred from the U.S. War Department to the new U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), predecessor to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Research and facilities

Reactor history

In 1947 construction began on the first nuclear reactor at Brookhaven, the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor. This reactor, which opened in 1950, was the first reactor to be constructed in the United States after World War II. The High Flux Beam Reactor operated from 1965 to 1999. In 1959 Brookhaven built the first US reactor specifically tailored to medical research, the Brookhaven Medical Research Reactor, which operated until 2000.

Accelerator history

In 1952 Brookhaven began using its first particle accelerator, the Cosmotron. At the time the Cosmotron was the world’s highest energy accelerator, being the first to impart more than 1 GeV of energy to a particle.

BNL Cosmotron 1952-1966.

The Cosmotron was retired in 1966, after it was superseded in 1960 by the new Alternating Gradient Synchrotron (AGS).

BNL Alternating Gradient Synchrotron (AGS).

The AGS was used in research that resulted in 3 Nobel prizes, including the discovery of the muon neutrino, the charm quark, and CP violation.

In 1970 in BNL started the ISABELLE project to develop and build two proton intersecting storage rings.

The groundbreaking for the project was in October 1978. In 1981, with the tunnel for the accelerator already excavated, problems with the superconducting magnets needed for the ISABELLE accelerator brought the project to a halt, and the project was eventually cancelled in 1983.

The National Synchrotron Light Source operated from 1982 to 2014 and was involved with two Nobel Prize-winning discoveries. It has since been replaced by the National Synchrotron Light Source II. [below].

BNL National Synchrotron Light Source.

After ISABELLE’S cancellation, physicist at BNL proposed that the excavated tunnel and parts of the magnet assembly be used in another accelerator. In 1984 the first proposal for the accelerator now known as the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC)[below] was put forward. The construction got funded in 1991 and RHIC has been operational since 2000. One of the world’s only two operating heavy-ion colliders, RHIC is as of 2010 the second-highest-energy collider after the Large Hadron Collider (CH). RHIC is housed in a tunnel 2.4 miles (3.9 km) long and is visible from space.

On January 9, 2020, it was announced by Paul Dabbar, undersecretary of the US Department of Energy Office of Science, that the BNL eRHIC design has been selected over the conceptual design put forward by DOE’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility [Jlab] as the future Electron–ion collider (EIC) in the United States.

In addition to the site selection, it was announced that the BNL EIC had acquired CD-0 from the Department of Energy. BNL’s eRHIC design proposes upgrading the existing Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, which collides beams light to heavy ions including polarized protons, with a polarized electron facility, to be housed in the same tunnel.

Other discoveries

In 1958, Brookhaven scientists created one of the world’s first video games, Tennis for Two. In 1968 Brookhaven scientists patented Maglev, a transportation technology that utilizes magnetic levitation.

Major facilities

Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), which was designed to research quark–gluon plasma and the sources of proton spin. Until 2009 it was the world’s most powerful heavy ion collider. It is the only collider of spin-polarized protons.

Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), used for the study of nanoscale materials.

BNL National Synchrotron Light Source II, Brookhaven’s newest user facility, opened in 2015 to replace the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), which had operated for 30 years. NSLS was involved in the work that won the 2003 and 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Alternating Gradient Synchrotron, a particle accelerator that was used in three of the lab’s Nobel prizes.
Accelerator Test Facility, generates, accelerates and monitors particle beams.
Tandem Van de Graaff, once the world’s largest electrostatic accelerator.

Computational Science resources, including access to a massively parallel Blue Gene series supercomputer that is among the fastest in the world for scientific research, run jointly by Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University-SUNY.

Interdisciplinary Science Building, with unique laboratories for studying high-temperature superconductors and other materials important for addressing energy challenges.
NASA Space Radiation Laboratory, where scientists use beams of ions to simulate cosmic rays and assess the risks of space radiation to human space travelers and equipment.

Off-site contributions

It is a contributing partner to the ATLAS experiment, one of the four detectors located at the The European Organization for Nuclear Research [La Organización Europea para la Investigación Nuclear][Organization européenne pour la recherche nucléaire] [Europäische Organization für Kernforschung](CH)[CERN] Large Hadron Collider(LHC).

The European Organization for Nuclear Research [La Organización Europea para la Investigación Nuclear][Organization européenne pour la recherche nucléaire] [Europäische Organization für Kernforschung](CH)[CERN] map.

Iconic view of the European Organization for Nuclear Research [La Organización Europea para la Investigación Nuclear] [Organization européenne pour la recherche nucléaire] [Europäische Organization für Kernforschung](CH) [CERN] ATLAS detector.

It is currently operating at The European Organization for Nuclear Research [La Organización Europea para la Investigación Nuclear][Organization européenne pour la recherche nucléaire] [Europäische Organization für Kernforschung](CH) [CERN] near Geneva, Switzerland.

Brookhaven was also responsible for the design of the Spallation Neutron Source at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee.

DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory Spallation Neutron Source annotated.

Brookhaven plays a role in a range of neutrino research projects around the world, including the Daya Bay Neutrino Experiment (CN) nuclear power plant, approximately 52 kilometers northeast of Hong Kong and 45 kilometers east of Shenzhen, China.

Daya Bay Neutrino Experiment (CN) nuclear power plant, approximately 52 kilometers northeast of Hong Kong and 45 kilometers east of Shenzhen, China .

BNL Center for Functional Nanomaterials.

BNL National Synchrotron Light Source II.


BNL Relative Heavy Ion Collider Campus.

BNL/RHIC Phenix detector.