Energy Research in New Mexico

New Mexico is home to two Department of Energy-funded laboratories: Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories; as well as the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).  New Mexico Tech and New Mexico State University also conduct research in many fields of energy.

Sandia National Laboratories (SNL)

The Energy Security program area works to reduce the risks of transformative energy solutions that will enhance the nation’s security and economic prosperity.  Energy security research at Sandia seeks to address key challenges facing our nation and the world. Sandia works with the energy industry to improve current hardware and develop the next generation of technologies to extract or produce energy.

The Energy, Climate, and Infrastructure Security (ECIS) Strategic Management Unit (SMU) spearheads research into energy alternatives that will help the nation reduce its dependence on oil and coal and to combat the effects of climate change. Sandia’s long history with geothermal, solar, and wind energy research has seen a vast increase in effort and intensity over the past 15 years and has also been supplemented in recent years with efforts in biologically based fuels: biomass from nonfood plant sources and algae—both of which can be grown on land unsuitable for farming.

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)

LANL’s Applied Energy Program Office conducts research in fuel cells; hydrogen storage and production; hydrogen safety codes and standards; carbon sequestration; unconventional fossil fuels; carbon dioxide separation and capture; superconductivity; infrastructure analysis; biofuels; energy storage; and geothermal energy.  The Tech Transfer office assists industry in accessing LANL research.

New Mexico Tech (NMT)

Formerly the Institute of Mining and Technology, NMT’s extensive research programs include the Petroleum Research and Recovery Center and the New Mexico Center for Energy Policy. The Petroleum Recovery Research Center (PRRC) of New Mexico Tech is regarded both nationally and internationally as one of the nation's leading petroleum research centers. PRRC was established by the New Mexico State Legislature in 1977 to conduct both basic and applied research designed to improve recovery of petroleum and natural gas. PRRC's research program emphasizes the development of improved oil recovery processes that can be applied to many of the older oil fields. PRRC program studies include:

  • Fundamental research on rock/fluid interactions and their influence on oil recovery, with emphasis on studies of wettability alteration and asphaltenes;
  • Enhanced CO2 flooding with emphasis on the mechanisms that control injectivity;
  • Using gels to reduce water production and increase reservoir sweep efficiency;
  • Using artificial intelligence and geostatistics for improved reservoir characterization;
  • Using a modified reverse osmosis system for treatment of produced water;

Development of a Geographical Information System to include produced water quality data, pipeline infrastructure and corrosion information, site risk assessment tools and other operational information via the Internet.

Photonic and fiber optic physical and chemical sensors for energy generation, environmental management, chemical process control, and homeland security applications.

New Mexico State University (NMSU)

NMSU has developed an international track record in the study and development of photovoltaic and other sources of alternative energy, including fuel cell design. Additionally, the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, administered by NMSU, provides expertise on nuclear waste disposal, an issue of concern nationwide. By creating an Institute for Sustainability of Water, Energy, and Land, NMSU will ramp up its multidisciplinary energy research and technology development programs in renewable and nuclear sources of energy to serve the entire Southwest. Specifically, NMSU will carry out research on the following:

  • Development, testing and validation of photovoltaic energy including flexible solar cell systems
  • Education and training of students in technologies related to sustainable energy
  • Educational and outreach services to energy, telecommunications industries, and regulatory commissions across the U.S.
  • Provision of an adequate and secure energy supply
  • Electric delivery systems technology development and implementation
  • Fuel cell design, hydrogen storage, and membrane durability
  • Organic waste utilization
  • Distributed energy
  • Nuclear energy research and application
  • Education of the public in the use of alternative sources of energy
  • Education and training of students in technologies related to sustainable energy

NMSU is part of the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bio products, a consortium of universities and research institutions awarded $49 million by DOE to commercialize algae into a biofuel.

Directed Energy Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL),  Kirtland Air Force Base

The Directed Energy Directorate is the U.S. Air Force’s center of excellence for directed energy technology.  With an annual budget exceeding $300 million, the workforce of 800+ people develop and transition research technologies into military systems used by operational commands.  There are four technical competencies at the center of all research and development at the Directorate:

  • High Power Microwaves
  • Lasers
  • Beam Control
  • Effects, Modeling and Simulation

There are four technology divisions within the Directorate:

  • High Power Microwave Division
  • Laser Division
  • Optics Division
  • Technology Applications Division