NREL’s Bryan Pivovar Awarded for Excellence in Fuel Cell Research

The Electrochemical Society (ECS) headquarters has awarded the 2021 Energy Technology Division Research Award to Bryan Pivovar, a researcher in the Chemistry and Nanoscience Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Since 1992, ECS has awarded the Energy Technology Division Research Award to individuals who have achieved excellence in energy-related research. Recipients are recognized for “outstanding and original contributions to the science and technology of energy related research areas that include scientific and technological aspects of fossil fuels and alternative energy sources, energy management and environmental consequences of energy utilization.”

Pivovar earned the Research Award for his decadal contributions to the field of fuel cells, particularly in anionic exchange membrane and proton-exchange membrane fuel cells and electrolyzers.

“I look at previous recipients of this award and it is a peer group that I’m honored to be part of,” Pivovar said. “They are a group of individuals who have pushed the field forward and many have been mentors to me personally.”

Pivovar is the latest to join a list of energy and electrochemistry giants who have earned the award over the past 28 years. Winners are known for their impactful contributions to future research and development.

“Winning this award is a big deal because this is the energy-related award from the nation’s—and the world’s—premier society in electrochemistry,” said Dr. Jao van de Lagemaat, director of the Chemistry and Nanoscience Center at NREL. “This award highlights the center and NREL’s increased focus on electrochemical conversion and storage related to fuel cells, electrolysis, and storage, especially as it relates to NREL’s strategy in [email protected] and electrons to molecules. Bryan has been a major driver in both.”

A Dedicated Career in Fuel Cell Research

Pivovar has dedicated his career to fuel cell research, particularly around the importance of hydrogen to the transportation industry.

Currently, Pivovar is a senior research fellow and fuel cell group manager in the Chemistry and Nanoscience Center at NREL. He oversees NREL’s electrolysis and fuel cell research and development activities and supports strategic planning in the areas of electrons to molecules/[email protected] and polymers/membranes.

He recently became the director of H2NEW, a new U.S. Department of Energy consortium focused on developing the next generation of electrolyzer technology.

“The first, critical aspect of enabling this is to improve the economic competitiveness of green hydrogen by coupling hydrogen production with low-cost renewables and improving the cost, performance, and durability of electrolyzers,” Pivovar said. “From a materials and device perspective, I am certain of the critical importance of advancing this technology over the next decade and feel incredibly fortunate to have such a central role in pushing it forward.”

With over 25 years of experience in polymer electrolytes and fuel cells, Pivovar has proven to be a pioneer in several areas of fuel cell and electrolyzer development including membranes, electrocatalysts, and membrane electrode assemblies and interfaces. He has co-authored over 150 papers in the general area of fuel cells and electrolysis.

Rewarding Research

In winning the ECS Research Award, Pivovar received a $2,000 prize, membership in the Energy Technology Division, and an invitation to present a lecture to the division in the spring.

This is not the first time Pivovar has been recognized by ECS. He also received the 2012 Charles W. Tobias Young Investigator Award for “outstanding scientific and/or engineering work in fundamental or applied electrochemistry or solid-state science and technology by a young scientist or engineer.”

However, Pivovar is not motivated by rewards or recognition. He says the highlight of his career is getting to leave a positive impact on the energy industry. “I recognize how lucky I am to be surrounded by such highly skilled, high-character, committed individuals,” he said. “Rather than needing to focus on profit, getting to focus on the best interest of U.S. citizens as a mission is a special role that most in our society will never have the luxury of knowing.”