News Release

Two CMI technologies named 2021 R&D100 Award winners

Grant and Award Announcement

DOE/Ames National Laboratory

Two technologies developed by the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) won 2021 R&D 100 Awards in the Mechanical Devices/Materials category. R&D World announced the top 100 scientific innovations of the year, as selected by independent panel of more than 50 judges representing R&D leaders in a variety of fields.

CMI is an Energy Innovation Hub led by Ames Laboratory and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy since 2013. CMI accelerates innovative scientific and technological solutions to develop resilient and secure supply chains for rare earth metals and other materials critical to the success of clean energy technologies. Led by the Ames Laboratory, CMI includes 300 scientists, engineers and support staff at four national laboratories of the U.S. Department of Energy, 14 universities, and 29 industrial partners.

This year’s CMI technology R&D 100 Award winners are:

  • Tough SmCo, developed by CMI researchers at Ames Laboratory with CMI Team member Energy Electron Corporation, led by Baozhi Cui. For decades, samarium-cobalt (SmCo) magnets have been the first choice in many applications due to their high magnetic power density and temperature stability. 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 CMI lead institution Ames Laboratory partnered with EEC, which is a major domestic producer of SmCo magnets, to improve 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.
  • RE-Metal, developed at Idaho National Laboratory and funded by CMI. Donna Baek led the work with Robert Fox and Abderrahman Atifi. RE-Metal helps solve an enormous challenge for U.S. manufacturers: enabling the environmentally friendly recycling of a limited supply of essential rare earth elements that are required for most of today’s high-tech devices. Recycling rare earth elements from high-tech devices typically involves a toxic process that’s banned in many countries, including the United States. RE-Metal enables the recovery of rare earth metals from waste electronics and other sources. The RE-Metal technology also has been part of a U.S. Department of Energy I-corps program. This video describes their process: LINK.

With the two new awards, CMI research now has won a total of six R&D 100 Awards. The earlier awards 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, and
  • 2017 Additively Printed High Performance Magnets.

In more than eight years of work, CMI has published 450 refereed publications in leading scientific journals. Cumulatively, CMI has issued 150 invention disclosures and five open-source software packages. Ten CMI technologies have been licensed. CMI technologies have received 26 U.S. patents, five Federal Laboratory Consortium awards, six R&D 100 Awards and four TechConnect Innovation Awards. Some CMI inventions are in commercial use. For information on partnering with CMI or licensing CMI technologies, contact Stacy Joiner, CMI Partner Relations, or 515-296-4508.

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

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