LDRD Annual Report 2013

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Document Number: Plan 48202.002

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Effective date: Mar. 2014

Permanent Magnetic Materials Discovery

Permanent magnetic materials find wide applications in energy generation. The materials providing best performances (e.g., high energy product), such as NdFeB, contains a large weight percentage of rare earth metals. As rare earth materials are critical materials and is projected to face a shortage in supply, DOE has invested considerable resources to find substitute materials for the rare earth based permanent magnetic materials in a recent APRPA-E REACT call.

Neuroregenerative and Neurorepair Strategies

This highly interdisciplinary project seeks to develop approaches to facilitate repair and regeneration of the damaged nervous system. We will use a combination of biomaterials in the form of polymer conduits and/or scaffolds, adult stem cells seeded on the biomaterials, and use of physical, chemical, biological and/or electrical cues to orient cell growth, control stem cell differentiation and facilitate neuroregeneration using in vitro models.

Mesoporous Block Copolymer Membranes for Bioseparations

We are investigating innovative membrane design to be applied to a variety of bioseparations relevant to the metabolic production of high-value chemicals. The membranes consist of percolating networks of 5-20 nm diameter pores in a block polymer matrix, fabricated via self-assembly. The surface-to-volume ratio is ~1000 mml-1, and consequently transport will be dominated by surface interactions. Accordingly, pore-wall functionalization should tune the selectivity to promote or retard the transport of specific classes of chemicals. 

Building a linker library for silicon nitride window membrane functionalization

The research in the Emergent Magnetic and Atomic Structures Group is aimed at determining the nature of macromolecule-mediated nanoparticle formation by utilizing advanced electron microscopy techniques.

Crossing Over from “Normal” to “Superconducting”

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Ultrafast Observation of Critical Nematic Fluctuations and Giant Magnetoelastic Coupling in Iron Pnictides
A. Patz, T. Li, S. Ran, R. M. Fernandes, J. Schmalian, S. L. Bud’ko, P. C. Canfield, I. E. Perakis, and J. Wang
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Nature Communications
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A new ultra-fast laser technique has yielded insights into how iron arsenide materials evolve to form a superconducting state. This transformation involves complex changes in magnetism, structural order, and electronic order that appear to be going on simultaneously — not simply competing with each other.  Only by looking at very fast time scales (10 thousandths of a billionth of a second) and using the highest quality single crystals could these transformational changes be separated and analyzed; ultra-fast spectroscopy enabled scientists to study the superconducting transformation dynamics to unravel what happens where and when.  The results demonstrated that the crossover involves an independent electronically-driven order (so-called nematic order), previously proposed. These findings will motivate the development of new microscopic theories to further understand this emerging behavior and its influence on superconductivity in these complex materials.

Three Ames Lab student employees, Ann Gisleson, ESH&A, Holly Kayser, DMSE, and Nikolas Kinkel, Information Systems, were nominated for the 2013-2014 Iowa State University Student Employee of the Year Award. A total of 87 students from across campus were nominated for the award.

A single student is selected each year for the award and Michael Erickson-Solberg, a student with CALS/CCUR/BCRF, was named recipient of this year's award.

 This group of tips and tricks were suggested by Deb Samuelson in Public Affairs. If you come across some tips or apps that you find handy for your cellphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop, let us know at insider@ameslab.gov.


Click on the image to go to the "Awesome Tricks."


To meet one of the biggest energy challenges of the 21st century-- finding alternatives to rare-earth elements and other critical materials-- scientists will need new and advanced tools.

The Critical Materials Institute at the Ames Laboratory has a new one: a 3D printer for metals research.

3D printing technology, which has captured the imagination of both industry and consumers, enables ideas to  move quickly from the initial design phase to final form using materials including polymers, ceramics, paper and even food.

But the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) will apply the advantages of the 3D printing process in a unique way: for materials discovery. By doing so, researchers can find substitutes to critical materials-- ones essential for clean energy technologies but at risk of being in short supply.

ImageCMI scientists will use the printer instead of traditional casting methods to streamline the process of bulk combinatorial materials research, producing a large variety of alloys in a short amount of time.

 “Metal 3D printers are slowly becoming more commonplace,” said Ryan Ott, principal investigator at the Ames Laboratory and the CMI.  “They can be costly, and are often limited to small-scale additive manufacturing in industry. But for us, this equipment has the potential to become a very powerful research tool. We can rapidly synthesize large libraries of materials. It opens up a lot of new possibilities.”

The CMI printer, a LENS MR-7 manufactured by Optomec of Albuquerque, N.M., uses models from computer-aided design software to build layers of metal alloy on a substrate via metal powders that are melted by a laser. Four chambers supply metal powders to the deposition head that can be programmed to produce a nearly infinite variety of alloy compositions. The printing occurs in an ultra-low oxygen glove box to protect the quality of highly reactive materials. In a recent demonstration run, the printer produced a one-inch long, 0.25-inch diameter rod of stainless steel in 20 seconds.

The process will overcome some of the obstacles of traditional combinatorial materials research.

“The problem is that it’s been typically limited to thin film synthesis. These thin film samples are not always representative of the bulk properties of a material. For example magnetic properties, important to the study of rare earths, are not going to be the same as you get in the bulk material,” explained Ott.

Combined with computational work, experimental techniques, and a partnership with the Stanford Synchrotron Light Source (SSRL) for X-ray characterization, scientists at the CMI will be able to speed the search for alternatives to rare-earth and other critical metals.

“Now we have the potential to screen through a lot of material libraries very quickly, looking for the properties that best suit particular needs,” said Ott.

This research is supported by the Critical Materials Institute, a Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. CMI seeks ways to eliminate and reduce reliance on rare-earth metals and other materials critical to the success of clean energy technologies. DOE’s Energy Innovation Hubs are integrated research centers that bring together scientists and engineers from many different institutions and technical backgrounds to accelerate scientific discovery in areas vital to U.S. energy security.

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.