Safety Sensor Testing Laboratory

The Safety Sensor Testing Laboratory at NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility 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:

  • 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.


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).


  • 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.

NREL Safety Sensor Testing Laboratory policy dictates that test results are treated as proprietary and not shared with other manufacturers or other entities without permission. To aid the hydrogen community, however, test data may be used by NREL in publicly 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.


William Buttner

Senior Scientist

Matthew Post