James L. Young is a scientist in the Electrosynthesis and Fuels Storage Science & Engineering group. He leads and contributes to projects in photoelectrochemistry (PEC), low-temperature water electrolysis, fuel cells, and electrochemical ammonia synthesis. Young received his bachelor's and doctorate degrees in materials science and engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Colorado (CU)–Boulder, respectively. He was originally interested in semiconductors and solid-state electronic properties of materials, but also became inspired by electrochemistry as an undergraduate intern at NREL in 2010.

As a graduate researcher, he developed tandem III-V PEC devices and atomic-layer-deposited thin films as protective, anti-reflective, and catalytic coatings co-advised by Steven George (CU-Boulder) and Todd Deutsch (NREL). Young continued PEC work as a postdoc while contributing to low-temperature electrolysis research projects advised by Guido Bender. Young became a scientist in 2018 and now leads NREL’s HydroGEN Consortium PEC projects, the H2NEW Consortium membrane electrode assembly performance ex-situ characterization task, a technology commercialization project on low-cost, electrolysis diffusion media materials, and a Laboratory Directed Research and Development project on electrochemical ammonia synthesis.

Research Interests

Materials electrochemistry

Electrochemical devices

Electrochemical ammonia synthesis

Photoelectrochemistry for solar fuels

Electronic properties of materials


Atomic layer deposition


Ph.D., Materials Science and Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder 

B.S., Materials Science and Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Associations and Memberships

The Electrochemical Society

Materials Research Society

American Vacuum Society

Featured Work

Proton Exchange Membrane Electrolyzer Characterization with Carbon-Based Hardware and Materials SetsElectrochemistry Communications (2021)

Effects of the Transport/Catalyst Layer Interface and Catalyst Loading on Mass and Charge Transport Phenomena in Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Water Electrolysis Devices, Journal of The Electrochemical Society (2020)

Performance Enhancement of Proton Exchange Membrane Electrolyzers Through Iridium-Coated Titanium Porous Transport LayersElectrochemistry Communications (2018)

Direct Solar-to-Hydrogen Conversion via Inverted Metamorphic Multijunction Semiconductor ArchitecturesNature Energy (2017)

A Graded Catalytic-Protective Layer for an Efficient and Stable Water-Splitting PhotocathodeNature Energy (2017)

View all NREL publications for James L. Young.

Awards and Honors

The Electrochemical Society Energy Technology Division Supramaniam Srinivasan Young Investigator Award (2022)

Hydrogen Production R&D Award, U.S. Department of Energy Fuel Cell Technologies Office (2017)

Director's Award, NREL (2017)

U.S. Department of Energy Team Merit Award (2017)

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (2011–2015)

Outstanding Mentor Award, Office of Science (2014, 2019, 2021)

First Place Poster, U.S. Department of Energy Science and Energy Research Challenge (2011)