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Solid Oxide Cell Electrode Material Development

The National Energy Technology Laboratory's (NETL's) record of success has been built on understanding the future of energy and the technologies required to make that future possible. We’ve long touted our success in developing the technologies that took on acid rain in the 1970s and mercury in the early 2000s. More recently, NETL has a leading role in President Biden’s ambitious climate goals, including a carbon emission-free power sector by 2035 and a net-zero economy by 2050.

Program Goals

The Professional Internship Program is designed to introduce undergraduate students and recent Bachelor's graduates to the challenges of conducting energy research, and enable graduate students to further build off their studies an experience as they join the scientific community. Participants interact daily with assigned mentors who guide research and project activities during the internship, while they become integral members of project teams.

The program goals include providing the opportunity to participants to:

  • Develop skills and knowledge in their field of study
  • Engage with new areas of basic and applied research
  • Transition classroom theory into hands-on experience
  • Network with world-class scientists
  • Exchange ideas and skills with the Laboratory community
  • Use state-of-the-art equipment
  • Contribute to answers for today's pressing scientific questions
  • Collaborate with the broader scientific and technical communities

Project Details

Through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), this posting seeks a recent Bachelor's graduate or student researcher to engage in projects with the Research Innovation Center (RIC) at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in the area of solid oxide cell research, under the mentorship of Harry Abernathy. This project will be hosted at the NETL Morgantown, WV campus.

An opportunity exists for a graduate student researcher to conduct applied research in support of NETL Solid Oxide Cell (SOC) research on high temperature fuel cells and electrolyzers. To improve cell durability, it is desired to lower the cell operating temperature, which requires electrode materials with improved electrochemical properties in the 500-700°C temperature range. During this appointment, the researcher will collaborate with the NETL SOC research team in a combined computational and experimental effort to characterize and improve the conductivity and catalytic properties of oxide material that are mixed conductors (i.e., conductors of electrons, ions, and/or protons). Efforts associated with this research focus primarily on: (1) synthesizing powders of oxide materials; (2) electrochemical characterization of the materials' fundamental reaction and transport properties; (3) fabricating SOC electrodes; and (3) characterizing the long-term performance degradation of the electrode materials. The researcher will participate directly with computational scientists to explain the differences in measured properties of the different tested materials.

The learning objectives will be:

  1. Learn to characterize the properties of functional oxide materials using conventional and advanced electrochemistry tools and analysis;
  2. Learn to generate solid oxide cell test specimens using conventional ceramic processing methods;
  3. Complete literature surveys and generate or support generation of review frameworks and research papers to appreciate the state of the art in high temperature electrochemical devices;
  4. Relate an oxide material's composition and structure to its measured electrochemical properties;

Stipend: Participants receive a biweekly stipend based on their educational level. Stipend payments are taxable as an educational benefit. Stipends for full-time participation start at:

  • $450 per week - $620 per week for undergraduate students
  • $690 per week - $770 per week for recent Bachelor's graduates
  • $690 per week - $1,050 per week for graduate students

Deliverables: To document the effectiveness of the program, participants are required to submit a pre-appointment and post-appointment survey, as well as a reflection on their appointment experience when they renew or end their appointment. The reflection should summarize their project(s), additional activities, and overall experience. Details are provided as the appointment end date approaches.
Participants may also have the opportunity to contribute to manuscripts, journal articles, book chapters, conference presentations, posters, patents, and other publications as a part of their appointment. Such achievements should also be reported to ORISE; additional details are provided after an offer has been accepted.


The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory system, is owned and operated by the DOE. NETL supports the DOE mission to advance the energy security of the United States. This is an educational opportunity offered by NETL and administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. Participants in the program are not considered employees of NETL, DOE, the program administrator, or any other office or agency.



The ideal candidate would have some, but not necessarily all, of the following skills:

  • Demonstrated experience in conducting laboratory experiments
  • Must have an undergraduate background in chemistry, physics, engineering, or applied mathematics, and must be pursuing a graduate degree in one of those fields.
  • Some knowledge of conventional techniques of electrochemical performance testing (e.g. cyclic voltammetry, V-I curve generation, electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, conductivity measurements)
  • Experience in basic ceramic processing such as powder synthesis, tape casting, screen printing, and sintering
  • Operational experience using an electron microscope (SEM) or x-ray diffractometer (XRD) is favored, but not required

To be eligible for this opportunity, you must:

  • Have one of the following academic statuses
    • An undergraduate student*1 in good standing at a regionally accredited college/university*2
    • A recent Bachelor's degree graduate*1 who has received the Bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college/university*2 within the last 24 months at time of application
    • A graduate student in good standing at a regionally accredited college/university
  • Have an overall GPA of 2.5/4.0 or higher
  • Be at least 18 years of age at the time of application
  • Provide confirmation of coverage under a health insurance plan prior to the beginning of the internship

*1 Soon-to-be Associate's degree graduates are eligible to apply if enrolled as a student at time of application. 
*2 Students and recent Bachelor's degree graduates from accredited Community Colleges and Technical Schools are encouraged to apply.