Tough magnet tech scores an R&D100 award for Critical Materials Institute at Ames Laboratory

A tougher, less brittle samarium-cobalt magnet produced by researchers at the Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by the Ames Laboratory, has won a 2021 R&D 100 award. The award was announced Oct. 20 at a virtual ceremony.

In use for decades, samarium-cobalt (SmCo) magnets have been the first choice in manyRD100 Winner logo applications due to their high magnetic power density and temperature stability. Their resistance to demagnetization, high heat, and corrosion have made them indispensable for extreme environments in the aerospace and marine industries, for example.

The chief drawback of the SmCo magnet is its brittle nature, being susceptible to chipping and fractures during the manufacturing process and failure in any environment with too much vibration or mechanical shock. Researchers at Ames Laboratory partnered with Electron Energy Corporation (EEC), which is a major domestic producer of SmCo magnets, in a project that improved the strength of these magnets by as much as 70%. The Laboratory optimized the materials, and EEC adapted it to cost-effective industrial scale production. 

“This award stands as wonderful proof of the strength of public-private partnerships in conquering technological challenges,” said CMI Director Tom Lograsso. “This product fills a very important niche in the magnet industry market, and we are pleased that the judges recognized its impact.”

This is the 5th R&D 100 Award for the CMI and one of two R&D 100 awards granted the CMI this year. The second, RE-Metal, developed at Idaho National Laboratory, is announced HERE .

The annual R&D100 awards are given in recognition of exceptional new products or processes that were developed and introduced into the marketplace during the previous year, and are selected by an independent panel of judges based on the technical significance, uniqueness, and usefulness of projects and technologies from across industry, government, and academia. To access the complete list of awardees, go HERE.

The Critical Materials Institute is a Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and supported by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, working to decarbonize industry and increase the competitiveness of the U.S. manufacturing and clean energy sectors through process innovations, collaborations, research and development, and technical assistance and workforce training. CMI seeks ways to eliminate and reduce reliance on rare-earth metals and other materials critical to the success of clean energy technologies.

Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science National Laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

Ames Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

Thomas Lograsso, Critical Materials Institute Director, 515-296-4500
Laura Millsaps, Ames Laboratory Communications Manager, 515-294-3474