CMI Technologies with US Patents

CMI researchers have created many invention disclosures and filed dozens of patent applications, with 26 patents issued. These are available for licensing, and are listed in the order of U.S. patent number. For CMI technology transfer, licensing or commercial inquiries, or if you would like information on how to become an affiliate or team member, please contact Stacy Joiner at the Ames Laboratory 515-294-5932 or CMIaffiliates@ameslab.gov.

Technologies available for licensing can also be found online at the U.S. Department of Energy EERE Energy Innovation Portal. Ames Laboratory provides additional information on Technology Transfer.

  1. Aluminum nitride phosphors for fluorescent lighting | Patent issued May 2016 #9,337,010 | A new high quantum efficiency phosphor based on Aluminum Nitride has been found to offer properties amenable to use in fluorescent lighting. Under certain conditions, aluminum nitride powder has been found to activate with a spectrum and light yield comparable to commercial orange-red phosphors, but without use of any rare-earth elements.
  2. Developing Bulk Exchange Spring Magnets | Patent issued June 2017 #9,691,545 | The challenge in producing high performing superior exchange spring magnets (ESMs) has been the inability to precisely control the spacing of the particles and the coupling between them. Electrophoretic deposition (EPD), which utilizes the induced surface charge (that) particles exhibit when placed in both aqueous and organic liquids, is used to control the motion of the particles in suspension in the presence of electric fields. As such, EPD permits the precise control of particles needed to manufacture superior ESMs with energy products approaching the theoretical maximum.
  3. Recovery of Dy-enriched Fe Alloy from Magnet Scrap Alloy via Selective Separation of Rare Earth Elements | Patent issued August 2017 #9,725,788 | Processing technique that utilizes rare earth magnets scrap (discarded permanent magnets) containing different heavy and light rare earth elements (Nd, Pr and Dy) to recover a Dy‐enriched Fe‐based alloy.
  4. Electrochemistry Enabled Recovery of Value Metals from Electronics | Patent issued March 2017 #9,777,346 | Patent #10,378,081 issued August 2019 | Patent #11,035,023 issued June 2021 | Electronic devices such as smart phones and tablets are a significant source of valuable metals available for recycling. Value metals in phones include gold, palladium, silver, copper, cobalt, nickel and Rare earth elements. This invention presents chemistry that enables efficient recycling of metals from scrap mobile electronics. The electrorecycling process recovers metals from electronic materials using a novel process. The process generates oxidizing agents to dissolve metals from matrix and selectively recovers a metal product. Unique chemistry has been developed to enable this recovery. Flow sheets have been developed to process feedstocks to value products.
  5. Castable High-Temperature Ce-Modified Al Alloys Patent issued May 2018 #9,963,770 Exclusive license issued | The present invention comprises castable Ce-modified Al alloys that have the ability to fill a vacant spot in the aluminum alloys family. The alloy maintains its mechanical properties to a higher temperature than currently available alloys and thus creates a high temperature aluminum alloy with mechanical characteristic improvements upwards of 30% over other Al alloys in similar high temperature applications. Cerium modification of Aluminum alloys will serve to create an as of yet unseen opportunity for Aluminum alloys to be utilized in high temperature applications; where before, such an application was limited to much denser and thus heavier alloys.
  6. Membrane Solvent Extraction for Rare Earth Separations Patent issued March 2018, #9,968,887 | link to licensing information | This invention is a membrane‐based dispersion‐free supported liquid membrane solvent extraction (MSX) for the separation, concentration and recovery of rare earth elements.
  7. Chemical Separation of Terbium Oxide (SEPTER) | Patent issued July 2018 #10,029,920 | link to licensing information | This invention provides an exceptional separation method for terbium oxide (Tb4O7) with the following advantages:  1) Improvement and known separation and recycling technologies:  separation of terbium (III, IV) oxide using an aqueous solution of acetic acid. 2) Time-effective:  unprecedented dissolution rate (total about 15 to 20 minutes). 3) Environmentally-friendly process:  water-based, omits of auxiliary hazardous chemicals; no waste generation (obtained acetates can be calcinated like the currently used oxalates). 4) Cost effective:  required materials (solution of acetic acid=”concentrated vinegar”) and whole process including microwave heating is cheaper compared to the solvent extraction. 5) A purity of 99.5% can be reached for the separated terbium oxide.
  8. Engineering Caulobacter Surface Protein for Rare Earth Element Absorption | Patent issued February 2019 #10,196,708 | Engineered bacterial strains of Caulobacter crescentus and Escherichia coli, that express lanthanide binding tag (LBT) on cell surface proteins, showed enhanced ability to sequester rare earth elements through bio-absorption.
  9. Multifunctional Liquid Crystalline Networks | Patent issued April 2019 #10,253,261 | link to licensing information | This invention describes a unique way of preparing liquid crystalline elastomers (LCE’s) with different liquid crystallinity, crosslink density, and network rigidity. The new method of preparation leads to LCEs with tunable thermal transition temperatures and thermomechanical properties. These characteristics make LCE compositions particularly well-suited for use in additive manufacturing processes and shape memory applications. LCE’s are powered by reversible liquid crystalline (LC) phase transitions and the unique coupling between LC molecules and polymer networks. As a result, liquid crystalline elastomers (LCE’s) represent a special class of shape memory polymers. They exhibit reversible shape change upon the application of external stimuli, such as heat, light, and magnetic field. This makes them excellent candidates for artificial muscles, sensors, and self-deploying devices. However, despite their interesting properties and remarkable potential, practical applications of LCEs remain limited, due to the technical difficulties involved in tailoring their thermal transition temperatures and their thermomechanical properties to specific end-use applications. Advances in preparing tailored LCE’s might provide significant improvements to additive manufacturing processes, and, to the additive manufacturing production of bonded magnets.
  10. Methods of Separating Lithium-Chloride from Geothermal Brine Solutions Patent issued April 23, 2019, #10,266,915 | link to licensing information | This invention comprises novel sorbents and methods which achieve transformational improvement in lithium‐chloride extraction methods from naturally occurring concentrated brines.
  11. Recovering Rare Earth Metals using Bismuth Extractant | Patent issued June 2019 #10,323,299 | link to licensing information | This invention involves a liquid metal extraction technique for treating rare earth metal-bearing permanent magnet scrap, waste, and other material to recover at least one of the light rare earth metal(s) and the heavy rare earth metal(s) for reuse in the manufacture of permanent magnets. It can be used to treat a wide variety of binary, ternary, and other rare earth-transition metal alloy compositions. This method can be practiced to recover the light rare earth metal content and the heavy rare earth metal content concurrently in a one-step process or separately and sequentially in a two-step process. Unlike other processes, this method extracts both the light and heavy rare earth metals in a single extraction step. Specifically, the heavy rare earths can be extracted very effectively using this method, which is not feasibly using other liquid metal techniques.
  12. A One Step Process for the Removal of Nickel/Nickel Copper Surface Coating from the Nd2Fe14B (neo) Permanent Magnets | Patent issued June 2019 #10,323,300 | This invention affords the quantitative extraction of rare earths present in phosphoric acid streams produced in phosphoric acid plants.
  13. 3D Printable Liquid Crystalline Elastomers with Tunable Shape Memory Behaviors and Bio-derived Renditions | Patent issued September 2019 #10,407,535 | link to licensing information | The invention describes a method to prepare a smetic main-chain liquid crystalline epoxy elastomer. Microstructures of the material including liquid crystallinity and crosslinking network were modified by adjusting the stoichiometric ratio of the reactants to tailor thermomechnical properties and shape memory behaviors. This invention includes a new class of materials based on epoxy and elastomer composites and processing solutions that will enable additive manufacturing of materials with enhanced cross-layer bonding and functionality such as shape shifting structures. Additive manufacturing of mechanically robust polymer composites requires localized heating and large thermal gradients that cause many conventional materials designed for polymer additive manufacturing to fail due to large macroscopic distortions. This problem is compounded by low adhesion between deposition layers. Our invention provides a specific solution that is centered on controlling the evolution of crystalline domains using directional electromagnetic fields and strong covalent bonding across layers. Materials with low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) can be obtained from liquid crystalline precursors. The zero-CTE epoxy composite and a shape shifting liquid crystalline elastomeric composite disclosed here is compatible with additive manufacturing. The economic viability can be maintained by making use of low cost biopolymers (lignin) both as integral component and/or cross-linking agent. We will pursue a two-phase approach: 1. Conversion of a commercial epoxy into stable pellets for room temperature extrusion. Electromagnetic processing will provide the targeted deposition of power and thermal energy to control polymer morphology resulting in a benchmark zero-CTE epoxy resin. 2. Incorporation of lignin as a rigid crosslinker and compounding with other reinforcing agents such as glass fibers, to lower cost and to improve the strength and durability of the material.
  14. A Process for the Recovery of Mercury and Rare Earth Elements from Used Fluorescent Lamps | Patent issued January 2020 #10,533,239 | link to licensing information | The invention teaches an integrated process to safely separate and remove mercury and rare earth elements from fluorescent light bulbs. The process does not rely on heating or volatilizing the mercury. Each step in the process is fully integrated into a single, continuous process that can be run either in batch, semi-batch, or continuous-flow mode for the recovery of mercury and rare earths from fluorescent light bulbs.
  15. Surface-Hardened Al-Ce Alloys and Methods of Making the Same | Patent issued March 2020 #10,584,403 | link to licensing information | Aluminum-cerium alloys which can be surface treated are important for certain applications where wear resistance is important. Through novel surface refining techniques it is possible to create a very hard surface morphology while maintaining a ductile bulk system. In addition, the surface morphology is stable during long term high-temperature exposure; an important property for materials which will be exposed to high wear scenarios. This invention includes surface-hardened aluminum-cerium alloys and methods of making the same.
  16. Novel Methods toward Selective Surface Modification of Nd2Fe14B Magnets to Achieve High Performance Permanent Magnets | Patent issued March 2020 #10,586,640 | This invention disclosure reports a method of selectively applying Dysprosium (Dy) to improve the coercivity of Nd2Fe14B-based magnets. We have determined the corners of the magnet surface where the demagnetization fields are high through microscopic calculation of the demagnetization factors. Based on these results, we have selectively coated Dy onto Nd2Fe14B magnet surfaces and improved its energy product by optimized annealing conditions. The optimized process conditions can also be achieved by selective heating. With heating, the magnet can be selectively heated to allow the diffusion of Dy into the Nd2Fe14B matrix.
  17. High Throughput Cost Effective Rare Earth Magnets Recycling System
    Patent issued May 2020 #10,643,776 | Licensed | link to licensing information
    Cost effective, five-step process to recycle rare earth (RE) magnets from computer hard drives (HDs) and potentially other consumer items such as electric motors, power tools, refrigeration compressors and electric generators.
  18. Acid-free Dissolution and Separation of Rare-earth Metals
    Patent issued May 2020 #10,648,063link to licensing information
    This invention is a simple, in-expensive and environmentally friendly chemical dissolution method for recycling NdFeB magnets.  This invention has the following advantages:  
    1) Novelty and Purity of the separated lanthanide oxides achieved ~99%.  This purity can be further improved if the materials are subjected to a second separation cycle.
    2) Time efficient: This direct dissolution process requires less time than the current state-of-the-art process.
    3) Environmentally-friendly:  This process limits the need for acids.
    4) Cost effective:  This invention requires and inexpensive salt solution.  The separation process is simple and requires no complex systems or equipment.  It can be easily incorporated into existing manufacturing or separation processes.
  19. Methods for Liquid Extraction of Rare Earth Metals Using Ionic Liquids
    Patent issued June 2020 #10,689,727
    This extractive metallurgy invention dissolves rare earth element containing minerals important in the United States as well as metal oxides and metal carbonates. Direct contact between rare earth minerals of interest and the invented materials may be performed, resulting in an enrichment of the medium and heavy rare earth elements, thus allowing for an attractive pre-concentration process. In this metallurgical process, the primary constituents (La, Ce, Nd) may be effectively separated from minor constituents (Eu, Tb, Dy, Ho, Y).
  20. Al-Ce Alloy for Additive Manufacturing
    Patent issued September 2020 #10,760,148link to licensing information
    This invention comprises a range of Al-Ce alloys for use in laser additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing processes produce fine alloy microstructures due to the characteristic high cooling rates. These fine structures improve mechanical properties relative to cast structure. In other Al alloy systems however, these structures are inherently unstable. Al-Ce alloys on the other hand show good thermal stability and an ability to retain these fine structures during long periods of time at elevated temperatures, such as though experienced during additive manufacturing due to the layer-by-layer nature of the process. Furthermore, the alloys are designed specifically for additive manufacturing in order to enable local microstructure selection via the manipulation of process parameters allowing for the tailoring of properties at specific locations within a component.
  21. High Command Fidelity Electromagnetically Driven Calorimeter (High-CoFi EleDriCal)
    Patent issued September 2020 #10,782,193link to licensing information
    The invention related to materials and more specifically to an electromagnetically driven thermophysical property measurement device that is capable in running in differential scanning calorimetry mode and differential thermal analysis mode. This thermophysical property measurement tool has an inherently low thermal mass and high power density in comparison to traditional resistive heating element systems and is therefore capable of enhanced temperature control not achievable using other methods.
  22. Methods of Recovering Rare Earth Elements
    Patent issued March 2021 #10,954,585
    Beta-diketones have an acidic proton that will react with reduced metals, and this has been shown react and chelate with transitional elements, rare earth elements and their alloys. This reaction can lead organic dissolution processes that do not require strong aqueous acids to dissolve the metals into a solution. 
  23. Rare Earth, Thorium, and Uranium Extraction/Separation
    Patent issued June 2021 #11,040,296
    This invention pertains to a solvent extraction system that extracts rare earth elements. The organic system successfully extracts rare earth elements, and the metal loaded organic system can be completely stripped. When applied to systems containing thorium and uranium as well as rare earth elements, the system can be tuned for selective extraction of the rare earth elements over thorium and uranium.
  24. Selective Chemical Separation of Rare-Earth Oxalates (CSEREOX)
    Patent issued August 2021 #11,090,579link to licensing information
    This invention provides a new selective chemical separation method of rare earth oxalates with following advantages:  
    1) Chemical separation of lanthanide oxalates within two groups: La-Sm (low-priced) and Gd-Lu (high-priced).  
    2) Simple and fast: (a) no special equipment or extreme synthetic conditions are required for the extractant preparation; (b) it is an ‘one step’ separation process which takes a few minutes.
    3) Environmental Aspects: (a) It is a water-based process (no mineral acids or organic 2nd phase required); (b) The best base candidate for an extractant system, 1-methylimidazole, is recognized by Sigma-Aldrich Company as a Greener Alternative Product, which adheres to one or more of the "12 Principles of Green Chemistry." 
    4) Cost effective: The required materials (oxalic acid and the respective base) as well as the whole process are cheaper compared to the state-of-art solvent extraction with organophosphorus compounds.
    5) The separation process represents a substantial improvement to known separation technology.

This page lists information about CMI inventions that have received patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A full list of CMI invention disclosures is available online