Pajarito Powder awarded $10 million to build out fuel cell supply chain


March 25, 2024

Albuquerque catalyst maker joins forces with two national labs, General Motors, and Strategic Analysis to develop lower-cost catalysts that will enable larger, more energy-intensive vehicles to be powered by hydrogen


March 25, 2024 — Albuquerque, N.M. — Pajarito Powder, LLC, a domestic developer and manufacturer of advanced catalysts, an enabling technology used in fuel cells and electrolyzers, was selected for a $10 million award by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to increase production scale and reduce costs of catalysts needed to enable the roll out of lower-cost, commercially ready fuel cells.

Pajarito Powder will work with Brookhaven National Laboratory, General Motors Co., Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Strategic Analysis on the project, as well as with national laboratory researchers as part of the Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck Consortium. Community partners include the University of New Mexico (UNM) Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, UNM’s STEM-H Center, and the New Mexico Economic Development Department (EDD).

“Pajarito Powder believes that hydrogen is one of the keys to decarbonizing transportation,” said company chief executive officer and board chairman Thomas J. Stephenson. “With lower-cost catalysts, fuel cells will become commercially viable for larger vehicles that need more energy.”

The project will support DOE’s goal of enabling domestic, commercial production of fuel-cell catalysts and components. The project will scale up production of carbon supports and platinum and platinum alloy catalysts. Another primary goal is to reduce the cost of carbon-supported catalysts, paving the way for low-cost, commercial deployment of fuel cells. Fuel cell performance is also expected to improve.

In its announcement, DOE cited Pajarito Powder’s work on novel interconnected mesoporous carbons as supports. DOE also cited the company’s work with numerous customers over the past 12 years, which has resulted in advances in catalyst supports and better manufacturing processes.

Separately, Pajarito Powder received notice of a second $10 million award from DOE to support its work on catalysts used in green hydrogen production. The company will use that funding to ramp up production of its electrolyzer catalyst process and improve the efficiency of the rare and expensive metal iridium, a key component of electrolysis. Partners in that project include Auris Noble, Nel Hydrogen, UNM, and the New Mexico EDD.

“These are very sizable awards for Pajarito Powder,” said Dr. Michele Ostraat, the company’s chief operating officer and the principal investigator who will manage the projects. “To win both proposals, both of which are substantial in scope, is truly a game-changer.”

Pajarito Powder opened a new manufacturing facility in Albuquerque this year that will enable 200 times as much production of hydrogen fuel-cell catalysts.

About Pajarito Powder

Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, Pajarito Powder, LLC is a world leader in the development and commercialization of advanced electrocatalysts for fuel cells and electrolyzers. Pajarito Powder manufactures a range of catalyst products using its own intellectual property as well as intellectual property licensed from the University of New Mexico, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique.

Pajarito Powder has received essential support from the State of New Mexico Economic Development Department through several programs including the Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP), SBIR Matching Grant, Technology Business Startup Grant, and the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) through the New Mexico International Trade Alliance. It has also worked with the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (WIOA), and the City of Albuquerque’s One Albuquerque Workforce Development Program.

Pajarito Powder manufactures catalysts for use with proton exchange membrane (PEM) and anion exchange membrane (AEM) electrolyzers and PEM fuel cells. Pajarito Powder materials more effectively use platinum group metal (PGM) components of catalysts, resulting in higher performance, better stability, and improved durability.

Pajarito Powder is a venture-backed startup funded by Bekaert, Hyundai Motor Company, Verge Fund, Omphalos Venture Partners, and other private investors.

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Pajarito Powder benefits from resources provided by the State of New Mexico Economic Development Department:  JTIP, STEP and other programs through the Office of Science and Technology.