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US materials initiative gains momentum

A gathering of industrial and academic leaders has unveiled a flurry of new projects under the umbrella of the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI), a US government effort to boost progress in advanced materials research.

Of the 15 projects announced today, some provide funding for materials research, including US$17.3 million towards basic materials research from the Department of Defense and a new grant programme from the National Science Foundation (NSF) called Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future. The NSF plans to announce awards later this summer. Other projects involve commitments by individual companies and universities to collaborate and share data and broader projects drawing on a number of national labs and agencies. They include:

  • a joint effort by Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Champaign, Illinois-based software company Wolfram Research to simulate structures made from some 7 million organic molecules, with open public access to the results;
  • a consortium led by Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin that will accelerate the development of carbon nanostructures;
  • the establishment of a Joint Materials Genome Institute sponsored by the Argonne, Lawrence Berkeley and Oak Ridge US national laboratories; and
  • a programme to predict the properties of nanomaterials under another multi-agency programme, the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

Cyrus Wadia, assistant director for clean energy and materials research and development at the US Office of Science and Technology Policy, which organized the workshop, says that the projects reflect an encouraging convergence of interests around the MGI. “Behind the scenes, there is a robust inter-agency process,” Wadia told Nature in an e-mail. “This work is creating a strong foundation for both current programs as well as future programs and commitments.”

A handful of other institutions have already shown support for the MGI. Earlier this year, the Department of Energy committed $12 million for materials research and $14.2 million towards improving fuel efficiency through methods such as “lightweighting” or developing new materials to make cars physically lighter.

The Obama administration has proposed a roughly $90-million budget for MGI-related activity in 2013, but Wadia stresses that this does not express the full leverage across existing science-agency budgets.

Comments

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    Dahman Soltani said:

    Prof. Aourag from Algeria, head of DGRSDT
    (http://www.nasr-dz.org/contact.php) worked on this for many years and
    launched a Materials Genome Project in 2005..
    You will find more information on AIP:
    http://proceedings.aip.org/resource/2/apcpcs/1047/1/48_1?isAuthorized=no
    and also on his website:
    http://www.univ-tlemcen.dz/~aourag/Genome.htm
    http://aourag.univ-tlemcen.dz/index.htm

    Prof. Aourag is the founder of this concept and the idea of materials genome
    project was first launched in Oran, Algeria. It was suggestd by Prof.
    Aourag’s group for the first time during a conference in Oran 2007 which was
    attended by some American scientists who seem to have embraced the idea.. I
    think it’s fair to give this scientist the necessary credit for initiating
    this project and the work he has done in this field as one of the best
    researchers in developing the materials genome concept in recent years.

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