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The Materials Genome Initiative: The First Five Years

The MGI has already sparked a paradigm shift in how new materials are discovered, developed, and deployed.

Attendees at today's Materials Genome Initaitive event in the White House.

Today, the White House hosted an event recognizing the fifth anniversary of the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI). On June 24, 2011, President Obama announced “To help businesses discover, develop, and deploy new materials twice as fast, we’re launching what we call the Materials Genome Initiative.” Over the past five years, Federal agencies, including the Departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DoD), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), have invested more than $500 million in resources and infrastructure in support of this initiative.

In the increasingly competitive world economy, the United States must find ways to get advanced materials into innovative products such as light-weight cars, more efficient solar cells, tougher body armor, and future spacecraft much faster and at a fraction of the cost than it has taken in the past. As outlined in the 2014 MGI Strategic Plan, the Nation needs to change the paradigm of how materials are discovered, developed, and deployed. New ways are needed to tightly integrate experiments, computation, and theory. Materials data must be widely shared in common formats, and made easily accessible—data describing both fundamental properties and how materials perform after processing. And universities must ensure that the next generation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have the training they need to embrace this new paradigm.

During the first five years of the MGI, Federal agencies have been working closely together and with collaborators from the public and private sectors to cultivate a cultural paradigm shift and make technical progress towards the initiative’s ambitious goals. Agencies have established or expanded an array of research and development programs. An expanding set of materials databases are being accessed by thousands of users to mine the properties of hundreds of thousands of materials. And interdisciplinary research centers at universities and government laboratories around the country are discovering and developing new materials, working with industrial collaborators to deploy those materials, and educating the future materials workforce.

A selection of accomplishments and technical successes released today illustrates the progress made during the first five years of the initiative, including:

  • The NSF program Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future is funding small academic teams to design and make materials with specific and desired functions or properties from first principles. Since its inception in 2012, the program has awarded 258 grants to teams at 80 academic institutions in 30 states.
  • The DoD has established the Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) Manufacturing Innovation Institute for metals processing and structural design to provide lighter weight products, systems, and vehicles. LIFT is providing the facilities and expertise to mitigate risk for businesses of all sizes in adopting advanced manufacturing technology.
  • DOE’s Materials Project, a database of computed information on known and predicted properties, now includes more than 600,000 materials and has more than 20,000 users working to identify and design new materials. DOE has recently launched the Energy Materials Network, a growing network of consortia allowing industry ready access to its national laboratories’ capabilities, tools, and expertise in order to accelerate the materials development cycle.
  • NASA has announced plans to fund a university-led institute to develop ultra-high strength, lightweight structural materials needed for the journey to Mars using an MGI-inspired approach, integrating advanced modeling throughout the entire materials development lifecycle.
  • This week, NIST and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory launched a virtual, high-throughput experimentation facility to accelerate the generation of the huge volumes of additional data needed to validate existing materials models, and to develop future models capable of more accurately predicting a material’s properties.

At today’s anniversary event, senior Administration officials from the White House, DoD, DOE, NIST, and NSF, along with leading technical experts from industry, academia, and government, discussed why the MGI is important to the Nation, what can be learned from the early successes, and the challenges ahead as the initiative evolves. The strong support for the goals of the MGI throughout the materials innovation ecosystem bodes well for its continuation into the next administration, and for its potential to deliver innovative products as part of the renaissance underway in American manufacturing.