Two CMI technologies named R&D100 Award finalists

Two technologies developed by the Critical Materials Institute have been named 2021 R&D 100 Award finalists. The finalists were announced by R&D Magazine and are presented annually to the top 100 scientific innovationsRD100 finalist logo as selected by an independent panel of more than 50 judges representing R&D leaders in a variety of fields.

The U.S. Department of Energy created CMI as an Energy Innovation Hub led by Ames Laboratory, with the mission to collaborate with national laboratories, universities and industry as CMI team members to create new technologies that support clean energy. This year’s R&D 100 Award finalists include the following:

  • RE-Metal, developed at Idaho National Laboratory and funded by CMI. Donna Baek is the project lead for the CMI project “Low-Temperature Electrochemical Processing of Rare Earth Elements” at Idaho National Laboratory. Baek’s collaborators include Robert Fox and Ruby Nguyen. They were part of a U.S. Department of Energy I-corps program with Corby Anderson at Colorado School of Mines serving as the entrepreneurial lead. This video describes their process.
  • Tough SmCo, developed at Ames Laboratory with CMI Team member Energy Electron Corporation. Baozhi Cui is the project lead for the CMI project “Heterogeneous Sm-Co and Nd-Fe-B Magnets” at Ames Laboratory.

The R&D 100 Awards have long been considered the most globally prestigious recognition of invention and innovation. These awards recognize 100 of the top innovations across five categories: Analytical/Test, IT/Electrical, Mechanical Devices/Materials, Process/Prototyping, and Software/Services. The 2021 R&D 100 Award Winners will be announced later this year.

Since its inception in 2013, CMI research has won four R&D 100 Awards. These are:

  • 2018 Acid-free Dissolution Recycling of Rare Earth Elements and Cobalt won both an R&D 100 Award and the 2018 Gold Award R&D 100 Special Recognition, Green Tech
  • 2017 ACE: The Ageless Aluminum Revolution
  • 2017 Additively Printed High Performance Magnets

These technologies represent years of collaboration between national laboratories, universities and industry. These collaborations continue, have earned other accolades and have inspired additional research. For example, the CMI cerium-aluminum alloy research was developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory with researchers at Ames laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and industry partner Eck. This technology earned a U.S. patent and won a TechConnect Innovation Award as well as a Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) award. Related research in similar alloys also has earned two patents. In more than eight years, CMI research has earned more than two dozen U.S. patents.

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, which supports early-stage applied research to advance innovation in U.S. manufacturing and promote American economic growth and energy security. 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