Ames National Laboratory and partners will advance renewable energy science and diversity in STEM

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Ames National Laboratory is partnering with Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, Florida State University, and North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University on a research project. The project has a two-fold purpose: Advancing the science of alternative energy sources and engaging underrepresented students in STEM careers. This opportunity is made possible by a recent funding award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science’s Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW) initiative, with this award sponsored by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences. The three-year project “Hydrogen Interfaces - Preparing and Obtaining a Workforce in Energy Research (HI-POWER)” invites students and scientists from underrepresented groups to help discover new materials for a hydrogen-based economy.

Nicolas Argibay, a scientist at Ames Lab and one of the research leaders, explained that HI-POWER addresses two important needs. First, furthering materials research for hydrogen-based energy, and second, creating internships to ensure a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive research community in STEM fields.

Argibay has been working in material science for years, in a little-known field called tribology. “It is the study of how materials interact when brought into contact with each other,” he explained. One major focus of his work is materials research for hydrogen-based fuel. Prolonged exposure to hydrogen can make materials brittle, resulting in cracking. Furthermore, hydrogen storage, production, and use involve extreme temperatures and mechanical stress. Additional research is needed to fully understand these interactions, and new hydrogen-tolerant materials are needed that can withstand them.

Over three summers at Ames Lab, students will have the opportunity to work with a variety of scientists on this science need. They will receive mentorship and support and engage in hands-on research related to hydrogen-friendly materials. Because materials science is a multidisciplinary field, there are many opportunities for students to pursue their interests and develop a variety of skills, Argibay said.

Finding solutions to hydrogen-friendly materials requires new and creative thinking, so it is a great way to attract new talent and enhance diversity in the field, said Argibay. “Within the scientific community, there’s so much emphasis on the technical side,” he said. “So it’s the last place you’d expect for there to be a genuine, meaningful push to rectify biases. It is so refreshing that we are able to pursue scientific programs that also emphasize a more inclusive workforce.”

Ames National Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science National Laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies, and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities, and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

Ames Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit