Sandia National Labs


Media Relations Department

CONTACT: Ace Etheridge, 505-845-7767,

September 23, 1996

Fuel Cell Consortium Grew Out of Workshop Proposal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The concept for the recently announced Russian/American Fuel Cell Consortium (RAFCO) was first proposed in May 1994 at the Third Entrepreneurial Workshop, sponsored by the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the Department of Energy.

More than two years later on Sept. 17, Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary and Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Viktor Mikhailov met in Vienna, Austria, and signed an international agreement to implement RAFCO. They also issued a joint statement announcing the initial cooperative technical projects under RAFCO.

Both the United States and Russia have significant research programs on fuel cells, which take energy released by catalytic oxidation of a fuel and convert it directly into electricity. With high energy efficiency and nearly zero emissions, fuel cells are attractive for remote power needs.

Current plans call for Sandia National Laboratories and the Department of Energy's Albuquerque Operations Office to administer RAFCO. Other DOE national laboratories also will work with the consortium. Three of the labs -- Sandia, Los Alamos, and Argonne -- already are participating in identified RAFCO projects.

Al Sylwester, Sandia manager of Sandia's Applied Energy Technology Integration Department, says Sandia can call upon its extensive experience and existing infrastructure for contracting with institutes in Russia and other countries in the former Soviet Union. This infrastructure was established to support Sandia's Cooperative Measure Programs with nations all over the world.

Sylwester and fellow Sandia researcher Bob Baker, who has since retired, first proposed the fuel cell consortium concept at the 1994 Third Entrepreneurial Workshop. At that workshop, conducted in Livermore, Calif., participants identified the need for cooperative fuel cell research and development between the two countries. Sylwester says American industry participants in the workshop initiated several ongoing cooperative efforts with Russian scientific institutes.

A subsequent three-day workshop hosted by Sandia in Albuquerque in September 1995 brought together nearly 80 people from the two countries including representatives from the Russian Ministry of Science, the Russian Academy of Science, the Russian nuclear institutes, the U.S. State Department, DOE, national laboratories, and American universities.

"At this second workshop, the participants identified the status of fuel cell technologies in both countries, common research needs, and emerging markets. In Russia, for example, fuel cell technology is a national priority as a power source for oil and gas exploration activities," Sylwester says.

Out of the Albuquerque workshop came a letter of intent that identified the main goals of the consortium. The Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (MINATOM) committed to provide initial financial support provided that it would be matched by United States entities. Sandia agreed to lead continuing efforts to establish RAFCO with a budget to do collaborative research.

RAFCO will help focus the expertise in both countries toward accelerating development of fuel cells for emerging markets while promoting non-proliferation goals. Cooperative projects will team scientists and engineers at the Russian nuclear institutes, DOE national laboratories, and U.S. industry. The initial set of cooperative technical programs will include projects on:

Funding for these projects will be provided through MINATOM and through the DOE Initiative for Proliferation Prevention, the U.S. Industry Coalition, the DOE Office of Transportation Technologies, and the DOE Office of Fossil Energy. These efforts also will be leveraged by financial support from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the International Science and Technology Centers (ISTC).

A multiprogram DOE national laboratory, Sandia has broad-based research and development programs contributing to national defense, energy and economic security, and environmental technologies. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia is operated for the DOE by a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Media Contact: A.C. "Ace" Etheridge, 505/844-7767,

Technical Contact: Al Sylwester, 505/844-8151,

Ace Etheridge,

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Last modified: June 12, 2001

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