Fundamental Interactions

The theoretical Chemical Physics program at Ames Laboratory supports integrated efforts in electronic structure theory and non-equilibrium statistical mechanical & multiscale modeling. The primary focus is on the development and application of methods that enable the study of surface phenomena, heterogeneous catalysis, cluster science and nucleation theory, and mechanisms in organometallic chemistry.


Contacts:                                                              For Release: April 17, 2014
Jonathan Wickert, senior vice president and provost, (515) 294-6410
Annette Hacker, News Service, (515) 294-3720
Steve Karsjen, Ames Laboratory, (515) 294-5643


ImageAdam Schwartz has been named director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Ames Laboratory operated by Iowa State University.

Schwartz currently serves as division leader of the Condensed Matter and Materials Division at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and also coordinates LLNL’s projects for the Critical Materials Institute, a $120 million DOE Energy Innovation Hub led by the Ames Laboratory. He will begin his duties in Ames on June 2, 2014.

"Ames is a world-class institution known for its work in materials science, computational chemistry and condensed matter theory, and Adam will certainly maintain the high caliber of research,” said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.  “He will guide Ames Lab as it confronts new challenges in science and technology in service to our nation." 

“Iowa State is honored to operate the Ames Lab on behalf of the Department of Energy, and the partnership between the university and Lab is important to the entire nation,” said President Steven Leath. “Dr. Schwartz’s outstanding scientific credentials, leadership skills, and vision will be tremendous assets in moving the Lab forward.”

Schwartz is an accomplished researcher whose work has focused on plutonium aging and alloys, advanced characterization, and the dynamic properties of materials. In addition to serving as director of the Ames Laboratory, he will also hold the rank of tenured professor in Iowa State’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

“The Ames Lab is a world leader in materials science, with an exceptional reputation, and with great momentum,” Schwartz said. “I look forward to working with the Lab’s scientists and operations staff to develop new materials and technologies that address America’s energy challenges.”

Schwartz earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in metallurgical engineering, and a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering, all from the University of Pittsburgh. He joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a postdoctoral research associate in 1991.

In making the announcement, Senior Vice President and Provost Jonathan Wickert expressed thanks to interim director Tom Lograsso for his leadership of the Lab, as well as the search committee for their thoughtful evaluation of candidates.

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

DOE’s 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



Tricking Iron into Acting like a Rare-earth Element

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Article Title: 
Giant Magnetic Anisotropy and Tunnelling of the Magnetization in Li<sub>2</sub>(Li<sub>1-x</sub>Fe<sub>x</sub>)N
A. Jesche, R. W. McCallum, S. Thimmaiah, J. L. Jacobs, V. Taufour, A. Kreyssig, R. S. Houk, S. L. Bud’ko and P. C. Canfield
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Nature Communications
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By slipping iron between two nitrogen atoms in a lithium matrix, researchers are able to trick iron into having magnetic properties like those of rare-earth elements.Rare-earth magnets are stronger than typical iron-based magnets and have high magnetic anisotropy, meaning they are easily magnetized in one particular direction.  Rare-earth elements are in high demand, difficult to find in large concentrations, and costly to mine.  Iron, in contrast, is abundant and cheap.  If iron can be made to behave like a rare-earth element, strong permanent magnets could be made without rare earths.  Interestingly, lithium and iron are not known to like to mix together.  Researchers discovered that adding nitrogen to lithium first and then adding iron, enables iron to mix with lithium.  Lithium–iron–nitride single crystals were synthesized via this new approach.  Typically, a value of 1 Tesla for the magnetization field is considered a strong permanent magnet.  These single crystals showed a value of more than 11 Tesla!  For now, the interesting magnetic properties of the lithium–iron–nitrogen material are only observed at low temperatures.However, this material is a model system for further theoretical and experimental studies to find rare-earth magnet replacement materials.

Contacts:                                                                For Release: April 8, 2014
Costas Soukoulis
, Physicist, 515-294-2816
Breehan Gerleman Lucchesi, Public Affairs 515-294-9750

ImageCostas Soukoulis, senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Iowa State University and associated member of IESL-FORTH in Greece, has won the 2014 Max Born Award from the Optical Society of America. The award honors a scientist who has made outstanding contributions to the scientific field of physical optics.

The Max Born Award committee specifically cited Soukoulis for his “creative and outstanding theoretical and experimental research in the fields of photonic crystals and left-handed metamaterials.” The award, which honors the contributions of Max Born to optical physics, was established in 1982, the centenary of Born’s birth and is endowed by United Technologies Research Center, Physical Optics Corporation, and individuals including Joseph Goodman.

Soukoulis received his B.Sc. from University of Athens in 1974. He obtained his Ph. D. in Physics from the University of Chicago in 1978. From 1978 to 1981 he was at the Physics Dept. at University of Virginia. He spent 3 years (1981-84) at Exxon Research and Engineering Co. and since 1984 has been at Iowa State University (ISU) and Ames Laboratory. He has been an associated member of IESL-FORTH at Heraklion, Crete, since 1983.

His research interest is to develop theoretical understanding of the properties of disordered systems, with emphasis on electron and photon localization, photonic crystals, random lasers, and metamaterials. The theoretical models developed are often quite sophisticated to accurately reflect the complexity of real materials.

Soukoulis received the senior Humboldt Research Award; he shared the Descartes award for research on metamaterials; he shared the 2013 APS McGroddy Prize; received an honorary doctorate from Vrije University in Brussels and the first Frances M. Craig endowed chair in Physics at ISU. He is Fellow of the APS, OSA, and AAAS. He has served on several boards and committees for organizations, including NSF, DOE, and European Union and he is a member of the editorial board of PRL. He has been a member or a chairman of various scientific committees responsible for various international conferences.

DOE’s 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 the Office of Science website at

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.

Contact:                                                                  For Release:  April 4, 2014
Steve Karsjen, Ames Laboratory, 515-294-5643

Ames, Iowa – Two participants in the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) research program at the DOE’s Ames Laboratory have been awarded prestigious scholarships, one from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program and the other from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship program.

ImageWilliam Robin Lindemann is a current participant in the Ames Laboratory’s spring semester SULI program, which is sponsored by the Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists within DOE’s Office of Science.  During his 16-week internship, he has been working with mentor David Vaknin, Ames Laboratory physicist and Iowa State University adjunct physics professor.  Lindemann has participated in hands-on x-ray reflectivity and fluorescence research.  Lindemann is a two-time participant in the SULI program, having also participated in the summer 2013 summer SULI program, also with Vaknin as his mentor. 

Lindemann has been awarded a Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s premier undergraduate scholarship in mathematics, natural sciences and engineering.  Out of over 1,100 students who applied for the scholarship, which is based on academic merit, 283 were selected and awarded a scholarship that will cover the cost of tuition fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.  Lindemann will apply the award to his senior year at Iowa State, where he is an undergraduate in materials science and engineering.  He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science and conduct research in and teach advanced ceramics. 

“My success in receiving this award is due in large part to the SULI research experience I’ve had at the Ames Laboratory and to my mentor David Vaknin,” said Lindemann.  “SULI is a remarkable program for introducing undergraduates to real-life research experiences in science laboratories.”    

“I have been fortunate to mentor many SULI students in the past and have enjoyed having them in the lab,” said Vaknin.  “Robin stands out for his maturity, his attitude and potential leadership skills.  I’d also like to thank the SULI program and the Ames Lab staff for its commitment to educating young scientists and helping to reinvigorate the enthusiasm for science in the nation.”   

ImageJavier Grajeda participated in the SULI program at the Ames Laboratory in summer 2011 under the mentorship of Javier Vela, Ames Laboratory faculty scientist and Iowa State University assistant professor of chemistry. 

Grajeda has been awarded a highly competitive fellowship through the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP).  Grajeda received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Texas at El Paso and will use his three-year fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he recently enrolled as a graduate student. 

The GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees.   Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $32,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, and opportunities for international research and professional development. 

While at the Ames Laboratory, Grajeda worked on a research project involving synthesis, characterization and modeling of nanocrystal-based nanocomposites.

In commenting on the award, Vela said, “Javier was a motivated student while participating in our research project at the Lab, and a prestigious award, such as the NSF graduate fellowship, would be a likely progression in his outstanding career path.” 

Grajeda added, “Working under the guidance of Dr. Vela has had a great impact on my career, and I am grateful for having been given the opportunity to participate in the SULI program.”

In addition to their internships, both Lindemann and Grajeda were co-authors on research papers published in peer-reviewed journals following their SULI appointments – Grajeda in a 2012 issue of Chemistry of Materials and Lindemann in a 2013 issue of Journal of Organic Electronics.   

Since inception, approximately 200 high-achieving students from universities and colleges around the nation have participated in the Ames Laboratory’s SULI program.  The Lab’s upcoming 2014 summer SULI program will host a record 30 undergraduates. 

“We couldn’t be more pleased with our students’ success,” said Steve Karsjen, laboratory education director for the Ames Laboratory.  “Awards like these are icing on the cake for what our research internships hope to accomplish.” 

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.

DOE’s 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, visit

Making Materials out of Hairy Nanocubes

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Self-Assembly and Crystallization of Hairy (F-Star) and DNA-Grafted Nanocubes
C. Knorowski and A. Travesset
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Journal of the American Chemical Society
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Researchers have developed the first theoretical model of the self-assembly of nanocubes that have been coated with polymers, including DNA and have shown exciting possibilities for experimentally programming self-assembled structures.  While spherical nanoparticles can align in any direction, nanocubes will only align with their faces oriented in certain ways.  Polymer-coated nanocubes, however, have the potential to arrange themselves differently than either uncoated nanocubes or spherical nanoparticles.  When grafted with DNA, the results show the possibility of the cubes assembling through the interactions of complementary DNA strands.  Varying the length of the DNA strands also impacts how the nanocubes will assemble.  Thus, with DNA you can encode information on the cubes about how to organize themselves, providing a more precise way to self-assemble nanostructures.  The model is able to predict the structures that will form under various conditions.  Materials consisting of assembled hairy nanocubes, are promising as materials for photovoltaics, as fuel cell cathodes and as catalytic materials. 

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ImageAmes Laboratory's Materials Preparation Center is THE source for the highest purity rare earth samples on the face of the Earth. Check out this graphic to find out which rare earths are the most popular menu items at the MPC.

Click HERE for a full-sized pdf of the poster!

Just in case you missed it or didn't get around to reading it, here's a link to the latest Inside Iowa State --

Ames Laboratory's 39th Annual Early Bird Golf Tournament will be held April 18. For details or to register, contact Tom Lograsso, 294-2770.