Of national note:
- The newest addition to the Ames Laboratory complex is the Sensitive Instrument Facility (SIF). The $9.9 million SIF was funded by the DOE’s Office of Science and constructed in 2014 and 2015 at the Applied Sciences Complex of the Laboratory’s contractor, Iowa State University. The facility holds $6 million in state-of-the-art electron microscopy equipment, and is specially sited and designed to protect the microscopes from the vibrations and electromagnetic interference that compromise their accuracy.
- Ames Laboratory is home to one of the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Innovation Hubs. The Critical Materials Institute focuses on technologies that make better use of materials and eliminate the need for materials that are subject to supply disruptions.
- Ames Laboratory scientist Danny Shechtman won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of quasicrystals.
- A tin-silver-copper solder alloy developed by Ames Laboratory senior metallurgist Iver Anderson has been widely adopted by the electronics industry to remove harmful lead from the environment. In 2001, the U.S. Department of Energy selected Dr. Anderson and his team’s lead-free solder as one of the “One Hundred Discoveries and Innovations from the Department of Energy (DOE) that have resulted in Improvements for American Consumers.” It is estimated that the technology has contributed $1 billion in sales into the worldwide economy.
- Iowa State is the only university nationwide that has a U.S. Department of Energy research laboratory physically located on its campus.
- The Ames Laboratory celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2017, continuing a more than half century of successful partnership between a federal agency, the Department of Energy, and a state-run institution, Iowa State University.
- Ames Laboratory's Materials Preparation Center produces the purest rare-earth materials used in academic and industrial research today.
- Ames Laboratory scientists have received 18 prestigious R&D 100 Awards since 1984. These awards are part of an annual competition that recognizes the nation's top 100 technological innovations. Ames Laboratory scientist Ed Yeung received an Editor's Choice Award from R&D Magazine in 2001. The award, referred to as the "Oscar of Science," recognizes the most promising new technologies.
- Of the 120 regional Science Bowl competitions, Ames Laboratory is one of only seven sites nationwide to field a National champion and to have participated in the National Science Bowl since its inception in 1991.
Of historical note:
- Pioneering work at Ames Laboratory in inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy led to conception and development of an analysis tool standard in 17,000 analytical laboratories worldwide. The ICP enables the rapid and accurate determination of up to 80 elements in metals; alloys; and liquids, such as oil, serum, blood and soils. This determination is accurate down to levels of a few parts per trillion or less.
- The process to produce large quantities of high-purity uranium metal was developed at Iowa State as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II. Iowa State provided one third of the uranium metal used in the world's first controlled nuclear chain reaction (modifications of this process are still used today to produce high-purity uranium and rare-earth materials).
Alumni of note:
- Harley Wilhelm (Ph.D. 1931), developed the most efficient process to produce uranium metal for the Manhattan Project, a process still used today.
- Velmer Fassel (Ph.D. 1947), internationally known for developing an analytical process, inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES), used for chemical analysis in almost every research laboratory in the world; former deputy director of the Ames Laboratory.
- James Renier (Ph.D. 1955), chairman and chief executive officer of Honeywell Inc. (1988-93).
- Darleane C. Hoffman (Ph.D. 1951), a 1997 recipient of the National Medal of Science, is one of the researchers who confirmed the existence of element 106, seaborgium.
- John Weaver (Ph.D. 1973), named Scientist of the Year for 1997 by R&D Magazine. Weaver is currently head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
- James Halligan (B.S. 1962, M.S. 1965, Ph.D. 1967), president of Oklahoma State University (1994-2002.) Oklahoma State Senator (2008 - Present)
- James W. Mitchell (Ph.D. 1970), named Iowa State University's first George Washington Carver Professor in 1994. He is also the winner of two R&D 100 Awards and the prestigious Percy L. Julian Research Award given by the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers for innovative industrial research. Mitchell is vice president of the Materials Research Laboratory at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies.
Faculty of note:
- Iver Anderson, senior metallurgist, developed a tin-silver-copper solder alloy that has been widely adopted by the electronics industry to remove harmful lead from the environment. The patented lead-free solder has been licensed by some 60 companies worldwide.
- Kai-Ming Ho, Che-Ting Chan, and Costas Soukoulis, physics and Ames Laboratory, were the first to design and demonstrate the existence of photonic band gap crystals, a discovery that led to the development of the rapidly expanding field of photonic crystals. Photonic crystals are expected to have revolutionary applications in optical communication and other areas of light technology.
- Paul Canfield, senior physicist, was a winner of the 2011 Ernest Orlando Lawrence awards in recognition of his outstanding work in synthesizing and characterizing materials in single crystal form. Canfield, who is also a Distinguished Professor and the Robert Allen Wright Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Iowa State University, researches the design, discovery, growth and characterization of novel electronic and magnetic compounds.
- Pat Thiel, chemistry and Ames Laboratory, received one of the first 100 National Science Foundation Women in Science and Engineering Awards (presented in 1991).
- Edward Yeung, chemistry and Ames Lab, was the first person to quantitatively analyze the chemical contents of a single human red blood cell, using a device that he designed and built; the development could lead to improved detection of AIDS, cancer and genetic diseases such as Alzheimer's, muscular dystrophy and Down's syndrome. Yeung has won four R&D 100 Awards and an Editor's Choice award from R&D Magazine for this pioneering work. He is also the 2001 recipient of the American Chemical Society Award in Chromatography for his research in chemical separations.
- Klaus Rudenberg, physics and Ames Laboratory, 2001 recipient of the American Chemical Society Award in Theoretical Chemistry for his innovative research in the field of theoretical chemistry.
- Frank Spedding (deceased), directed the chemistry phase of the Manhattan Project in World War II, which led to the world's first controlled nuclear reaction. He was Iowa State's second member of the National Academy of Sciences and the first director of the Ames Laboratory.
- Harley Wilhelm (deceased), developed the most efficient process to produce uranium metal for the Manhattan Project, a process still used today.
- Velmer Fassel (deceased), internationally known for developing an analytical process, inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES), used for chemical analysis in almost every research laboratory in the world; former deputy director of the Ames Laboratory.
- John Corbett (deceased), chemistry and Ames Laboratory, member of the National Academy of Sciences, created the first noncarbon example of buckyballs; discovered more than 1,000 new materials.
- Karl Gschneidner, Jr. (deceased), senior scientist, modern-day developer of magnetic refrigeration technology that has the potential for significant energy savings with fewer environmental problems than existing refrigeration systems.