Skip navigation to main content.
NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
About NRELEnergy AnalysisScience and TechnologyTechnology TransferTechnology DeploymentEnergy Systems Integration

Safety Sensor Testing Laboratory

The Safety Sensor Testing Laboratory at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) aims to ensure that hydrogen sensor technology is available to meet end-user needs and to foster the proper use of sensors. Hydrogen sensors are an important enabling technology for the safe implementation of the emerging hydrogen infrastructure. Codes require hydrogen detectors (e.g., NFPA 2—Hydrogen Technologies Code), but currently provide little guidance on deployment. In support of NREL Safety Codes and Standards Projects, the Safety Sensor Testing Laboratory strives to fill the gap between code requirements and end-user needs.

Hydrogen safety sensors can be used to:

  1. Detect releases
  2. Automatically shut down systems
  3. Activate alarms and ventilation systems
  4. Notify emergency responders.

Manufacturers utilize different technologies to make sensors, resulting in a wide range of operating characteristics. When installing sensors, it is important to understand these operating characteristics and to have products validated to meet the needs of each application. NREL's Safety Sensor Testing Laboratory offers evaluation services to all stakeholders in the hydrogen community and provides an unbiased interface between sensor providers (manufacturers, vendors, and developers) and end-users.

Role of the NREL Safety Sensor Testing Laboratory

This graphic shows the NREL Safety Sensor Laboratory at its center with the following text surrounding it: technology development support, commercial technology evaluations, deployment support for end users, industrial collaborations with end users and manufacturers, national and international codes and standards support, Hydrogen Safety Panel support, Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association working groups, domestic and international collaborations, trainings and workshops, and academic research and development support.

Work in the laboratory addresses the safety sensor needs of the hydrogen community, with a focus on the following:

Photo of three researchers in a laboratory setting.

NREL researchers use the Safety Sensor Testing Laboratory to test the reliability of hydrogen sensors.
Credit: Angela Costanzo.

  • Independent assessments of hydrogen safety sensor performance for national and international standards, Department of Energy (DOE) targets, as well as to specific client requirements; standardized but adaptable test protocols have been developed
  • Ongoing "around-the-clock" sensor performance testing (with remote access)
    • Fully automated test apparatus, with controlled and monitored environmental parameters (temperature, pressure, and relative humidity) and gas parameters (flow and composition)
    • Quantitative sensor performance assessment
  • Interaction with manufacturers to improve sensor performance to meet DOE targets
    • Available for both commercially mature and developing technologies
    • Test data for specific manufacturers and developers are treated as proprietary; although test data may be used in publications, presentations, and outreach activities, specific vendors are not identified
  • Expert advice on sensor performance and testing capabilities for specific applications
  • Available as a facility for contract work
    • Provide sensor evaluation services to assist end-users on sensor selection and use
    • Assist developers in quantitative assessment of emerging technology performance
    • Provide manufactures with a cost-effective resource for assessing products to national and international specifications
  • Participation in standard-developing organizations
    • Underwriters Laboratories — UL2075 Gas and Vapor Detectors and Sensors
    • International Organization for Standardization — ISO 26142 Hydrogen Detection Apparatus for Stationary Applications
    • National Fire Protection Association — NFPA 2 Hydrogen Technologies Code
  • Collaborations with hydrogen community stakeholders, including government facilities, private sector organizations, and academic institutions
  • Active participation on panels relevant to hydrogen safety and sensors
  • Topical studies to guide the use of hydrogen sensors.

NREL's SAFETY SENSOR TESTING LABORATORY IS AVAILABLE FOR CONTRACT WORK

Sensor Developers

  • Detailed laboratory assessments
    • Standardized test protocols can be customized according to specific requirements
    • Broad range of test conditions and protocols
    • Available for all technology levels—from developmental to fully commercialized.
  • Field deployment scenarios — In partnership with NREL's Wind-to-Hydrogen Project, the Safety Sensor Testing Laboratory is developing on-site resources for field deployment assessments of hydrogen sensors
    • Extended (2 weeks to >1 year) deployments under real-world conditions within an active hydrogen production facility
    • Continuous, round-the-clock monitoring of all major ambient environmental conditions
    • Area monitor performance in environmentally regulated and unregulated facilities
    • Assessment of monitors within hydrogen production units (e.g., electrolyzers).

End-Users

  • Detailed laboratory and field deployment assessments
    • Independent, unbiased assessments of sensor performance for specific applications
    • Verification of published specifications
    • Demonstration of appropriateness of proposed sensor technology for application.

All data will be treated as proprietary. Contact NREL's Safety Sensor Testing Laboratory personnel for more information.

Major Highlights and Accomplishments

The laboratory fosters the deployment of sensor technology via the following avenues:

  • Implementation of its fully automated sensor testing apparatus
  • Sensor Interlaboratory Comparison (SINTERCOM) Project — an international collaboration with the European Commission's Joint Research Centre to validate sensor performance
  • DOE/NREL Sensor Workshop — workshop revisited and refined sensor performance metrics by application
  • Hydrogen Sensor Task Group — NREL hosts periodic online meetings for the Hydrogen Sensor Task Group, which is open to all stakeholders in the hydrogen community. The meetings provide an open forum for the free exchange of information in support of hydrogen infrastructure. Refer to the contacts listed below for more information.
  • Open dissemination of results via official NREL reports, conference papers, and journal articles—most of which are available in the NREL Publications Database—as well as outreach activities such as stakeholder collaborations. A sampling of publications and presentations are provided below.

NREL Safety Sensor Testing Laboratory policy dictates that test results are treated as proprietary and are not shared with other manufacturers or other entities without permission. To aid the hydrogen community, however, test data may be used by NREL in publically available documents (i.e., journal articles, technical reports, and presentations) and during outreach activities, but the data will not be attributed to a specific vendor or client.

Publications and Presentations

The NREL Publications Database offers a variety of documents related to hydrogen safety sensors that were written or edited by NREL staff. The following selection provides a sampling of journal articles, technical reports, conference papers, and presentations on NREL's hydrogen safety sensor testing and research activities.

NREL Hydrogen Sensor Testing Laboratory
Publication Type: Technical report (2013 Annual Progress Report)
Authors: W. Buttner, C. Rivkin, R. Burgess
Publication Date: December 2013

National Codes and Standards Development and Outreach
Publication Type: Technical report (2013 Annual Progress Report)
Authors: C. Rivkin, C. Blake, R. Burgess, W. Buttner
Publication Date: December 2013

Component Standard Research and Development
Publication Type: Technical report (2013 Annual Progress Report)
Authors: R. Burgess, W. Buttner, C. Rivkin
Publication Date: December 2013

NREL Hydrogen Sensor Testing Laboratory
Publication Type: Conference presentation (2013 Annual Merit Review)
Authors: W. Buttner, R. Burgess, C. Rivkin, C. Blake
Publication Date: May 2013

National Codes and Standards Deployment and Outreach
Publication Type: Conference presentation (2013 Annual Merit Review)
Authors: C. Rivkin, C. Blake, R. Burgess, W. Buttner
Publication Date: May 2013

Component Standard Research and Development
Publication Type: Conference presentation (2013 Annual Merit Review)
Authors: R. Burgess, W. Buttner, C. Rivkin, C. Blake
Publication Date: May 2013

Pressure Relief Devices for High-Pressure Gaseous Storage Systems: Applicability to Hydrogen Technology
Publication Type: Technical report
Authors: A. Kostival, C. Rivkin, W. Buttner, R. Burgess
Publication Date: November 2013

Onboard Hydrogen/Helium Sensors in Support of the Global Technical Regulation: An Assessment of Performance in Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Crash Tests
Publication Type: Technical report
Authors: M. Post, R. Burgess, C. Rivkin, W. Buttner, K. O'Malley, A. Ruiz
Publication Date: September 2012

Steering Committee Progress Report on Hydrogen Sensor Performance Testing and Evaluation under the Memorandum of Agreement between NREL, U.S. DOE, and JRC-IET, EC
Publication Type: Technical report
Authors: W. Buttner, M. Post, R. Burgess, C. Rivkin, L. Boon-Brett, V. Palmisano, C. Bonato, F. Harskamp
Publication Date: December 2012

Inter-Laboratory Assessment of Hydrogen Safety Sensors Performance under Anaerobic Conditions
Publication Type: Journal article (International Journal of Hydrogen Energy)
Authors: W.J. Buttner, R. Burgess, C. Rivkin, M.B. Post, L. Boon-Brett, G. Black, F. Harskamp, P. Moretto
Publication Date: November 2012

Summary and Findings from the NREL/DOE Hydrogen Sensor Workshop (June 8, 2011)
Publication Type: Technical report
Authors: W. Buttner, R. Burgess, M. Post, C. Rivkin
Publication Date: July 2012

Standard Hydrogen Test Protocols for the NREL Sensor Testing Laboratory
Publication Type: Brochure
Authors: J. Buttner, M. Post, R. Burgess, C. Rivkin
Publication Date: December 2011

An Overview of Hydrogen Safety Sensors and Requirements
Publication Type: Journal article (International Journal of Hydrogen Energy)
Authors: W. J. Buttner, M. B. Post, R. Burgess, C. Rivkin
Publication Date: February 2011

Interim Report of the SINTERCOM Project
Publication Type: Technical report (published by the Joint Research Centre's Institute for Energy)
Authors: G. Black, L. Boon-Brett, F. Harskamp, P. Moretto, W. J. Buttner, M. B. Post, R. Burgess, C. Rivkin
Publication Date: 2011

Round Robin Testing of Commercial Hydrogen Sensor Performance – Observations and Results
Publication Type: Conference paper (2010 National Hydrogen Association Conference and Expo)
Authors: W. B. Buttner, R. Burgess, C. Rivkin, M. B. Post, L. Boon-Brett, G. Black, F. Harskamp, P. Moretto
Publication Date: May 2010

A National Agenda for Hydrogen Codes and Standards
Publication Type: Conference paper (International Symposium on Materials Issues in a Hydrogen Economy)
Author: C. Blake
Publication Date: May 2010

A National Set of Hydrogen Codes and Standards for the United States
Publication Type: Conference presentation (3rd International Conference on Hydrogen Safety)
Authors: C. Rivkin, C. Blake, W. J. Buttner, M. Post, and R. Burgess
Publication Date: September 2009

Buoyancy-Driven Ventilation of Hydrogen from Buildings: Laboratory Test and Model Validation
Publication Type: Journal article (International Journal of Hydrogen Energy)
Authors: C. D. Barley, K. Gawlik
Publication Date: July 2009

Test Protocol Document, Hydrogen Safety Sensor Testing (Phase I: Non-Flammable Mixtures)
Publication Type: Technical report
Authors: R. Burgess, C. Blake, C. E. Tracy
Publication Date: September 2008

Analysis of Buoyancy-Driven Ventilation of Hydrogen from Buildings
Publication Type: Conference paper (2nd International Conference on Hydrogen Safety)
Authors: C. D. Barley, K. Gawlik, J. Ohi, R. Hewett
Publication Date: August 2007

Analysis of Buoyancy-Driven Ventilation of Hydrogen from Buildings
Publication Type: Conference presentation (2nd International Conference on Hydrogen Safety)
Authors: C. D. Barley, K. Gawlik, J. Ohi, R. Hewett
Publication Date: August 2007

More Information

For more information about NREL's Safety Sensor Laboratory, refer to the hydrogen sensor testing
fact sheet
or contact William Buttner at (303) 275-3903 or Robert Burgess at (303) 275-3823.

For information about NREL's Safety Codes and Standards Program, contact Carl Rivkin at (303) 275-3839.