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John Turner — Research Fellow

Dr. John Turner has been at NREL since 1979 and is recognized as a world-class scientist and international spokesperson for hydrogen energy and for his contribution in hydrogen production via photoelectrochemical splitting of water and in the development of fuel cells.

He received the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science Outstanding Mentor Award and has co-authored more than 100 technical publications.

Dr. Turner started his career in electrochemistry at Idaho State University as an undergraduate working on sodium and potassium amalgam batteries. After he received his B.S. degree in Chemistry, he joined Colorado State University (CSU), working on pulsed voltammetric techniques with Bob and Janet Osteryoung's group. He received his Ph.D. in Electroanalytical Chemistry 1977 and then moved onto Caltech to continue postdoctoral work with Fred Anson. At that time, the well-known photoelectrochemist, Heinz Gerischer was visiting Caltech and Dr. Turner began working with him investigating the photoelectrochemistry of layered selenides. It was there that he fell in love with photoelectrochemistry.

Dr. Turner joined NREL, formerly the Solar Energy Research Institute, in 1979 to work with Art Nozik's group on hot-carrier processes at semiconductor electrodes. At this point in his career, he began researching photoelectrochemical water-splitting for hydrogen production, and for seventeen years (1998-2015) held the record for the highest solar-to-hydrogen efficiency from a photoelectrochemical-based device. Dr. Turner's research topics include: semiconductor materials and structures; catalysts for the hydrogen and oxygen reactions; and fundamental processes of charge transfer at semiconductor electrodes.

Dr. Turner received two Midwestern Research Institute President's Awards for Exceptional Performance in Research. Further, he has received the Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel award for Research Excellence, an Idaho State University Outstanding Achievement Award (2006), the Japanese Society of Coordination Chemistry Lectureship Award, and six Outstanding Mentor Awards from the U.S. Department of Energy for his work with undergraduate students. He is the author or co-author of over 170 peer-reviewed publications in the areas of photoelectrochemistry, fuel cells, batteries, general electrochemistry and analytical chemistry. He is a Fellow of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute, a joint institute between NREL and the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a 2012-2014 Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer. He is also co-Editor of the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, an AIP journal.


Dr. Turner has been recognized as a visionary. His paper "A Realizable Renewable Energy Future" (1999) still receives many citations, and he was highlighted as a visionary in 2004 by Electronic Design Magazine with his article "Hydrogen Could Fuel the Digital Electrical Grid." His vision, which incorporates information, solar, hydrogen, and fuel cell technologies to create an intelligent and advanced electrical grid, could have profound impact on developing nations by eliminating the need to build large, centralized power plants before homes can be powered.

Research and Contributions

  • 1979-present: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO. Research on: direct conversion systems for hydrogen production from water (photoelectrolysis); the study of new materials for fuel cell systems (membranes and bipolar plates); electrode materials for high energy density lithium batteries; electrodeposition of thin-film semiconductor materials; and fundamental processes of charge transfer at semiconductor electrodes. These research projects involve electrocatalysis, new semiconductor materials, and surface modification.
  • 2012-present: Scientific Director of the Center for Revolutionary Solar Photochemistry (CRSP)
  • 2010-present: Fellow of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI)
  • 2008-present: Co-Editor, Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy (
  • 1986-1992: Instructor in Chemistry, Colorado Christian University, Lakewood, CO. Taught first year chemistry, including lecture and laboratory.
  • 1977-1979: Postdoctoral Fellow, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, (Fred Anson). Research on: adsorption at electrode surfaces using staircase voltammetry; chronocoulometry and ac. impedance techniques; and the photoelectrochemistry of layered selenides.
  • 1973-1977: Graduate Research, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, (Robert and Janet Osteryoung). Conducted research on electroanalytical techniques for trace analysis and developed computer programs for on-line computer control and analysis of electrochemical experiments.
  • 1972-1973: Graduate Teaching Assistant, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.
  • 1968-1971 Research Assistant, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID. (G.M. Arcand). Conducted research on designing, building, and testing alkali metal amalgam batteries, and the diffusion of silver ion in KOH using radioactive silver.


  • Ph.D., Analytical Chemistry, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 1977
  • B.S., Chemistry, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID, 1971.

Professional Organizations

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • The American Chemical Society
  • The Electrochemical Society
  • Material Research Society



  • Outstanding New License Agreement, Technology Transfer Awards, 2015
  • MRI President's Award for Exceptional Performance in Research: 1995, 1998


  • Fellow of the Electrochemical Society
  • Japan Society of Coordination Chemistry, Lectureship Award: 2012
  • Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer: 2012-2014
  • Outstanding Mentor Award, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science: 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
  • Idaho State University Outstanding Achievement Award: 2006
  • Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel award for Research Excellence: 1999

Patents and Publications


  • J. G Zhang, C. E Tracy, J. Turner, and P. Liu, 2000, "Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) Method of Forming Vanadium Oxide Films and Vanadium Oxide Thin-Films Prepared Thereby." U.S. Patent No. 6,156,395 (2000).
  • M. Brady, H. Wang and J. Turner, "Surface modified stainless steels for PEM fuel cell bipolar plates", U. S. Patent 7,247,403, granted July 24, 2007.
  • H. Wang and J. Turner, "Electrochemical Nitridation of Metal Surfaces" U.S. Patent 9,068,271, granted June 30, 2015.
  • H. Wang and J. Turner, "Photo-assisted High-Efficient Nitrate Reduction at III-V Semiconductor Materials," Patent Application S-130,524; IR-12-21.


Selected Publications

  • Pilli, S.K., Furtak, T.E., Brown, L.D., Deutsch, T.G., Turner, J.A., Herring, A.M. (2011). "Cobalt-phosphate (Co-Pi) catalyst modified Mo-doped BiVO4 photoelectrodes for solar water oxidation." Energy & Environmental Science 4 (12), 5028-5034.
  • Chen, Z., Jaramillo, T.F., Deutsch, T.G., Kleiman-Shwarsctein, A., Froman, A.J. (2010). "Accelerating materials development for photoelectrochemical hydrogen production: Standards for methods, definitions, and reporting protocols." Journal of Materials Research 25 (01), 3-16.
  • Yin, W.J., Tang, H. (2010). "Band structure engineering of semiconductors for enhanced photoelectrochemical water splitting: The case of TiO2." Physical Review B 82 (4), 045106.
  • Turner, J., Sverdrup, G., Mann, M.K., Maness, P.C., Kroposki, B., Ghirardi, M. (2008). "Renewable hydrogen production." International Journal of Energy Research 32 (5), 379-407.
  • Ahn, K.S., Shet, S., Deutsch, T., Jiang, C.S., Yan, Y. Al-Jassim, M., Turner, J. (2008). "Enhancement of photoelectrochemical response by aligned nanorods in ZnO thin films." Journal of Power Sources 176 (1), 387-392.
  • Ahn, K.S., Yan, Y., Shet, S., Deutsch, T., Turner, J., Al-Jassim, M. (2007). "Enhanced photoelectrochemical responses of ZnO films through Ga and N codoping." Applied physics letters 91 (23), 231909.
  • Turner, J.A. (2004). "Sustainable hydrogen production." Science 305 (5686), 972-974.
  • Wang, H., Turner, J.A. (2004). "Ferritic stainless steels as bipolar plate material for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells." Journal of Power Sources 128 (2), 193-200.
  • Wang, H., Brady, M.P., Teeter, G. Turner, J.A. (2004). "Thermally nitrided stainless steels for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell bipolar plates: Part 1: Model Ni50Cr and austenitic 349 alloys." Journal of Power Sources 138 (1), 86-93.
  • Wang, H., Brady, M.P., More, K.L., Meyer, H.M., Turner, J.A. (2004). "Thermally nitrided stainless steels for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell bipolar plates: part 2: beneficial modification of passive layer on AISI446." Journal of Power Sources 138 (1), 79-85.
  • Wang, H., Sweikart, M.A., Turner, J.A. (2003). "Stainless steel as bipolar plate material for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells." Journal of Power Sources 115 (2), 243-251.
  • Liu, P., Lee, S.H., Tracy, C.E., Yan, Y., Turner, J.A. (2002). "Preparation and lithium insertion properties of mesoporous vanadium oxide." Advanced Materials 14 (1), 27.
  • Aroutiounian, V.M., Arkelyan, V.M., Shahnazaryan, G.E., Stepanyan, G.M. (2002). "Investigation of ceramic Fe2O3 photoelectrodes for solar energy photoelectrochemical converters." International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 27 (1), 33-38.
  • Khaseley, O., Bansal, A., Turner, J.A. (2001). "High-efficiency integrated multijunction photovoltaic/electrolysis systems for hydrogen production." International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. 26 (2), 127-132.
  • Turner, J.A. (1999). "A realizable renewable energy future." Science 285 (5428), 687-689.
  • Khaselev, O., Turner, J.A. (1998). "A monolithic photovoltaic-photoelectrochemical device for hydrogen production via water splitting." Science 280 (5362), 425-427.
  • Zhang, J.G., McGraw, J.M., Turner, J., Ginley, D. (1997). "Charging capacity and cycling stability of VO x films prepared by pulsed laser deposition." Journal of The Electrochemical Society 144 (5), 1630-1634.
  • Kocha, S.S., Peterson, M.W., Arent, D.J., Redwing, J.M., Tischler, M.A., Turner, J.A. (1995). "Electrochemical Investigation of the Gallium Nitride-Aqueous Electrolyte Interface." Journal of the Electrochemical Society 142 (12), L238-L240.
  • Peterson, M.W., Turner, J.A., Nozik, A.J. (1991). "Mechanistic studies of the photocatalytic behavior of titania: particles in a photoelectrochemical slurry cell and the relevance to photodetoxification reactions." The Journal of Physical Chemistry 95 (1), 221-225.
  • Christi, J.H., Turner, J.A., Osteryoung, R.A. (1977). "Square wave voltammetry at the dropping mercury electrode: theory." Analytical Chemistry 49 (13), 1899-1903.

NREL Publications

View all NREL publications for John Turner.