Ames Laboratory (AL)

Ames Laboratory (AL)

Agency/Department

FLC Region

Security Lab

No

Address

2408 Pammel Drive
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-3020
United States

Laboratory Representative

Description

 

The Ames Laboratory conducts fundamental as well as intermediate-range applied research in support of current and future energy technologies and seeks solutions to energy-related and other critical national problems through the exploration of chemical, engineering, materials, mathematical and physical sciences. The Laboratory is operated by Iowa State University (ISU) and is located on the university's campus. Of a total permanent staff of 400, approximately 200 are scientists and engineers. The Laboratory's relationship with ISU allows many senior scientists to hold joint appointments as faculty members in ISU academic departments and enables about 180 undergraduate and graduate students to serve on Ames Lab's scientific staff. Ames Laboratory was established in 1947 following its successful development of the process used to produce high purity metallic uranium for the Manhattan Project. This was the first example of numerous programs in materials research, including materials synthesis and processing, materials characterization, catalysis, computational chemistry, condensed matter theory, computational materials science, materials theory, and analytical instrumentation. 

Ames Laboratory is home to the Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a DOE energy innovation Hub.  The CMI brings together leading researchers from other DOE national laboratories, academia and industry to develp solutions to domestic shortages of rare-earth materials and othe rmaterials critical to U.S. energy security. 

Ames Laboratory is home to the Sensitive Intrument Facility, which houses next generation electron microscopy equipment for characterization of materials at the atomic scale.

The Laboratory's Materials Preparation Center prepares, purifies, fabricates and characterizes materials in support of R&E programs through the world.

 

Mission

Ames Laboratory's mission is to create materials, inspire minds to solve problems, and address global challenges.  It does this by providing national scientific leadership and technological innovation to support the DOE's objectives and programs. AL conducts fundamental research in the physical, chemical, biological materials, mathematical and engineering sciences that underlie energy generating, conversion, and transmission and storage technologies; environmental improvement; and other technical areas essential to DOE missions. 

Ames Laboratory supports the following division and program areas:  Chemical and Biological Sciences; Materials Science and Engineering; Simulation, Modeling and Decision Science; and the Critical Materials Institute.  

 

 

Tech Areas

Available Technologies
Displaying 1 - 10 of 31
A general efficient Gutzwiller solver for electronic structure simulation package
Acid-Free Dissolution and Separation of Rare-earth Metals
Bioadvantaged Nylon: Polycondensation of 3-Hexenedioic Acid with Hexamethylenediamine
Chemical Separation of Terbium Oxide
Development of Enhanced AlNiCo Magnets
Dispersion Management with Metamaterials
Double lens device for tunable harmonic generation of laser beams in KKBBF/RBBF crystals
Dual-Color Auto-Calibration Scanning-Angle Evanescent Field Microscope
Electrocatalytic Hydrogenation of Muconic Acid for the Production of Biorenewable Synthetic Polymer Precursors
Functionalization of Ceria with Phosphate for Catalytic Application

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No Funding for this lab
No Programs for this lab
Facilities
Displaying 1 - 5 of 5
Critical Materials Institute, a DOE Energy Innovation Hub
Dynamic Nuclear Polarization NMR Facility
Materials Preparation Center
Powder-to-Parts (Additive Manufacuring)
Sensitive Instrument Facility
No Equipment for this lab
No publications for this lab
Success Stories

The Critical Materials Institute (CMI) along with GE and Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories has discovered new phosphors for use in efficient lighting technologies, such as fluorescent long tube lighting and LEDs.  CMI has developed an accelerated materials discovery framework that predicts which new materials have the characteristics needed for lighting applications and scales up the production of these materials for manufacturing trials.

Phosphors for lighting applications often contain critical rare earth materials, such as europium and terbium, which are subject to supply risk.  CMI’s accelerated materials discovery process can identify new phosphors that meet or exceed existing materials in both manufacturing and performance in fluorescent and LED lamps.  Current LED technology, for example, is limited in its ability to provide “tunable” color for lamps because the phosphors used are broadband emitters, which results in blue color.  This “cool light” is less marketable in the North American market, where consumers prefer yellow-toned lighting.

CMI utilized both rapid computational and experimental discovery methods to identify materials with appropriate emissive qualities -- they emit light at the right wavelength and have narrow bandwidth emissions necessary for LED applications.  These methods allowed for quick screening of viable candidates, taking into account manufacturing requirements.  Within in a two-year span, this approach helped scientists rapidly identify replacements for red and green phosphors in fluorescent lamps, eliminating the use of europium and terbium.  The process was then extended to LED phosphors, and within the first year and a half of that effort, CMI scientists identified viable candidates for replacements for both red and green phosphors in LED lighting with narrow bandwidth. 

CMI brings scientists from across the DOE laboratory complex together to solve multidisciplinary problems.  These projects are significant in scope and often utilize a method that integrates computational and experimental methods to rapidly screen candidate substitute materials.  The framework and methodology used is broadly applicable beyond lighting technology and is being used for materials discovery and design in other areas, such as permanent magnet materials.  This capability can be extended to other critical materials whose supply risk can be addressed through the use of alternative materials.
 

Titanium powder created with Ames Laboratory-developed gas-atomization technology is being successfully marketed by Praxair Inc., which offers fine, spherical titanium powder for additive manufacturing and metal injection molding of aerospace, medical and industrial parts. It marks the first time large-scale amounts of titanium powder are available to industry with a potential for low-cost, high-volume manufacturing.

Titanium’s strength, light weight, biocompatibility and resistance to corrosion make it ideal for use in parts ranging from aircraft wing structures to replacement knee joints and medical instruments. Using ultra-fine, high-purity spherical titanium powder to 3-D print or mold these parts generates 10 times less metal waste than traditional casting of parts.

Two former Ames Laboratory employees Joel Rieken and Andy Heidloff, created a spinoff company, Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies (IPAT), to exclusively license Ames Laboratory’s titanium atomization patents. IPAT scientists worked to further optimize the titanium atomization process and along the way won several business and technology awards for their efforts, including the Department of Energy’s Next Top Energy Innovator competition in 2012. IPAT was acquired by Praxair, a Fortune 250 company and one of the world’s largest producers of gases and surface coatings in 2014, and Praxair began marketing titanium powder the following year.

In 2017, the high-efficiency “pour tube” nozzle invented by Iver Anderson, Reiken, Heidloff and their team to produce titanium power by a method 10 times more efficient than traditional powder-making methods, received a Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) Excellence in Technology Transfer Award. 

Gas atomization work at Ames Laboratory was supported by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and Office of Fossil Energy, and the specific work on titanium powder was supported by Iowa State University’s Research Foundation, the State of Iowa Regents Innovation Fund, and the U.S. Army.

A titanium bolt and the corresponding amount of titanium powder necessary to create it.

Extensive efforts to develop a replacement for lead-based solder resulted in the discovery of a novel tin-silver-copper alloy that not only removes toxic lead from our everyday environment but also serves as a direct swap for lead-based solders in the industrial setting, exhibiting a combination of low melting point, ease of application on typical metal joints, and reasonable cost.  The effort was led at Ames Laboratory by senior metallurgist Iver Anderson with assistance from co-inventor, Frederic Yost, from  Sandia National Laboratory.

Over 65 companies worldwide sublicensed the lead-free solder technology, which is used widely in modern electronic assembly as the go-to solder for attaching electronic chips and components to printed wiring boards in products such as cellular phones, computers and televisions.

Federal funding through the U.S. Department of Energy was provided for the basic research and technology development of lead-free solder.  Ames Laboratory’s contractor, Iowa State University, the Iowa State University Research Foundation, and Nihon Superior provided development funds.  Eventually two patents (5,527,628) and (6,231,691) were licensed to a small business, Johnson Manufacturing, Princeton, Iowa; Multicore Solders (now Henkel Corporation) of Richardson, Texas; and Nihon Superior Co. Ltd. Of Osaka, Japan.   Following a widespread movement in Japan (2000) to go lead-free in consumer electronics and legislative action by the European Union to eliminate most of the lead in consumer goods (2006), interest in lead-free solder skyrocketed.  The patents have now expired, but Ames Laboratory’s lead-free solder continues to be used in virtually all electronics worldwide, touching the lives of billions of people.

A winner of the Federal Laboratory Consortium’s “Excellence in Technology Transfer” award in 2009, ongoing lead-free solder product development continues in an effort to improve drop impact strength, thermal aging, and thermal fatigue resistance, with additional patents filed. 

Lead-free solder

One invention with two dramatic outcomes is the result of a new acid-free rare-earth magnet recycling process invented by scientists at the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) and Ames Laboratory.

During the recycling process, magnets are dissolved in water-based solutions, allowing scientists to recover more than 99 percent purity rare-earth elements.  In addition, cobalt is recovered from cobalt-containing magnet wastes.  The rare-earth materials recovered are used in making new magnets while the recovered cobalt shows promise for use in making battery cathodes.

The technology resulted from analyzing industrially generated wastes from three U.S. magnet manufacturing and processing companies.  A U.S. hard disk drive shredding company supplied shredded HDDs.  In addition, the Ames Laboratory Materials Preparation Center reduced magnets from the research into metal ingots, and collaboration is on-going with a commercial partner, Infinium Metals, to produce metal ingots at larger scale.

Ikenna Nlebidim (left) and Denis Prodius
discuss ​​​​​​recycling electronic waste.

Ames Laboratory and CMI scientists Ikenna Nlebedim and Denis Prodius and Anja-Verena Mudring, formerly of Ames Laboratory and currently of Stockholm University, developed the innovative recycling process.  Nlebedim, lead investigator, says, “The unique strength of this technology is that it eliminates operational hazards and negative environmental impacts associated with acid-based dissolution process without sacrificing purity, efficiency and potential economic impact.” 

Patents for the process have been filed, and the recycling process has earned a prestigious 2018 Notable Technology Development Award from the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC).

Ames Laboratory’s VE-Suite’s library of tools, an open-source software, provided the background and expertise needed for AgSolver, Inc., a startup company located in Ames, Iowa, to create and market LEAF (Landscape Environmental Assessment Framework) application tools. 

Doug McCorkle a co-founder of AgSolver, and his research team at Ames Laboratory focused on using diverse data streams within the engineering process to create virtualized systems that enable engineers to make well-informed decisions. At AgSolver, the open-source tools developed during that research are being deployed for training simulators, interactive design environments, and agronomic decision services products.

VE-Suite tools were developed by K. Mark Bryden, Doug McCorkle, Aaron Bryden and other team members at Ames Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory.  Mark Bryden’s team won three R&D 100 awards for tools developed for VE-Suite.

AgSolver core environmental process engine determines a broad range of land performance characteristics at a high resolution that deliver market specific services to customers.  AgSolver’s agronomic decision service products improve land management decisions, and simplify mandatory compliance and reporting activities. Their technology uses readily available precision agriculture data including yield maps, soil sample data, and fertilizer application data, in combination with simulation tools to guide better management decisions. The technology uses these datasets with some simple inputs about the management practices for an operation to provide valuable insights at a high resolution 30 foot scale such as: profit projections for a field over 50 years of actual climate conditions, 10 – 30 year projections of key soil productivity metrics including organic matter and erosion scale, and nitrogen use efficiency. The coupled data management and simulation technology also supports high resolution conservation planning. By integrating this technology with a secure cloud computing framework AgSolver’s applications can provide these improved decisions within minutes.

AgSolver, Inc. was purchased by EFC Systems in 2015.

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