04.05.11

The Ames Laboratory

Big things in a small package.

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The Ames Laboratory Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory

Ames Laboratory

Each month, we'll be putting one of our National Laboratories in the spotlight. Right now we're aiming at the Ames Laboratory. Discover all that Ames Lab has to offer, from materials and other research to technology transfer and education.

The Ames LaboratoryExternal link may be the smallest national lab, but it is colossal in productivity and innovation. It is recognized worldwide for its contributions to scientific research and industrial advancements. The Lab works to help solve our nation's energy-related problems and to address issues of national concern through the development of cutting-edge materials and technologies. Additionally, the Lab strives to spark an interest in science through its education efforts.

Located in Ames, Iowa and operated under contract by Iowa State University with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Office of Science, the laboratory was established in the 1940s following its development of highly pure materials for atomic research. In fact, Ames Lab scientists developed the most efficient process for producing pure uranium metal for the Manhattan Project during World War II. The Lab's specialties have since grown from materials research and analytical science to include high-performance computing and environmental science.

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A scientist looking into a large microscope Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory

Ames Laboratory scientist Matt Kramer operates a scanning transmission electron microscope, which is just one of many tools used to characterize materials developed at the Laboratory.

The Ames Laboratory's mission to serve the U.S. with industrial productivity begins with research. Ames Lab researchers study chemistry, physics, engineering, applied mathematics and materials science to understand the structural properties of materials on the most fundamental level. As a result of these research endeavors, Ames Lab boasts a number of accomplishments in the materials field that are beneficial to our nation and our environment.

For instance, senior metallurgist Iver Anderson has produced a lead-free solder, widely used in electronic devices, which has significantly reduced the amount of lead waste that threatens our land and our health. Ames researchers have also developed new materials for a cooling method called magnetic refrigeration. The materials could eventually be used in businesses and homes and result in quieter, more energy-efficient appliances. The Lab's Materials Preparation Center also produces the purest rare-earth materials used in industrial and academic research. Decades of research in rare-earths has made Ames Lab the so-called "Rare-earth Research Center of the Nation."External link

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The Ames plasma torch Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory

The plasma torch in the Retech plasma furnace is one tool used in the Materials Preparation Center, located at Ames Laboratory. The furnace is used to prepare a variety of materials, particularly those metals or alloys that might react with the material of the crucibles in other melting methods.

In addition to its rare-earth research, the Ames Laboratory has made the newsExternal link for the development of a new alloy that can be added to certain materials to improve the conversion of heat into electrical energy. This improvement has many practical green applications, including the use of heat exhaust to charge the battery in an electric car and the recycling of heat waste from industrial refineries. For more information on Ames Lab's research success stories, visit http://www.ameslab.gov/research/our-scienceExternal link.

While the Ames Laboratory is most notable for its accomplishments in the world of materials science, it is also recognized for its contributions to education. Most notably, it is involved with the National Science Bowl (NSB), for which it received recognition for 20 years of service in 2010. Ames Lab annually hosts regional NSB competitions for both high-school and middle-school students. Teams compete in a Jeopardy-style quiz bowl in which they answer a variety of science and math questions. To view a video of highlights from the regional competition, visit this linkExternal link.

The Ames Laboratory is one of ten National Laboratories funded by DOE's Office of Science. For more about the Office of Science, visit http://science.energy.gov/.

Abigail Pillitteri is a writer for the Office of Science.

Last modified: 3/15/2013 5:23:47 PM