Dr. Ikenna C. Nlebedim is an associate scientist and group leader at Ames Laboratory and the magnet thrust co-lead for the Critical Materials Institute (CMI). He contributes to CMI research efforts on recycling, additive manufacturing, thermomagnetic processing and system levels finite element modeling. He has a Ph.D. from Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK, and an M.Sc. from KTH, Stockholm, Sweden. His research interests include recycling of materials, magnetoelastic and magnetoelastic materials, magnetic non-destructive evaluation, and magnetic systems modeling.
He received his bachelor's in chemistry from Reed College in 1990, and his doctorate in chemistry from Harvard University in 1996. He specializes in multi-disciplinary problem solving in the physical sciences and their corresponding engineering disciplines. Over his 22-year research and development (R&D) career, he has developed expertise in physical chemistry, chemical kinetics, atmospheric chemistry, instrumentation, electronics (digital, analog, power, and RF), spectroscopic sensing, lasers, fiber optics and wave guides, classical optics, electro-optics, electromagnetics, electromechanical systems, heat transfer, materials science, mechanical engineering, manufacturing processes, and renewable energy technologies.
He has won four R&D 100 Awards, holds numerous patents, has 10 active licenses on his inventions, and given many invited talks on the subject of serial innovation. In 2015, he was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy as its Inaugural SunShot Innovator in Residence. He invented the Radical-Ion Flow Battery under the SunShot Innovator in Residence Program to address the need for low-cost, highly scalable electrochemical grid storage, and the performance limitations of prior art battery chemistries in this demanding application. His current research portfolio is focused on electrochemical grid storage, the elimination of rare-earth magnets in wind turbines, and semiconductor thermal management (power electronics, CPUs, GPUs).
He is a research scientist from Idaho National Laboratory (INL) with extensive experience in the fields of materials electrochemistry as applied to reactive and refractory metals, process metallurgy, synthesis and characterization of high-temperature metals and materials, energy-efficient manufacturing processes, and materials recycling. While working at Bhabha Atomic Research Center, India, he developed an entirely new (molten salt based) process flow-sheet for the production of vanadium metal with a view to fabricate a self-powered beta detector. He also worked on the development of a new high-temperature process for the production of commercial-grade zirconia and silica powders from the indigenously available zircon mineral. His other projects have been aimed at recovering valuable materials from waste, secondary resources, and lean ore bodies. His team could successfully develop a technology for the conversion of Zr-2.5Nb alloy scrap to high purity zirconium crystal bar by van Arkel de Boer process. This technology can be adopted to successfully transform the alloy scrap into high purity zirconium crystal bar, a metal of significant importance to the nuclear energy program. At the University of Cambridge, he worked on the process optimization studies pertaining to the preparation of titanium metal and its alloys by a novel molten salt electrochemical process. He developed a preparative process for titanium-lanthanum alloy from their mixed oxides. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he worked on a high-temperature electrochemical process to generate oxygen from the lunar regolith. This is one of the two technologies shortlisted by NASA for its eventual deployment to produce breathable oxygen from in situ (lunar) resources. At INL, the scientific underpinning of his research activities has been to study the behavior of metals and materials under a given set of conditions. His diverse research pursuits include materials electrochemistry, energy-efficient manufacturing processes, and materials recycling.
His research focuses on ferroic functional materials and their applications in clean energy and energy efficiency applications. Current research directions include caloric materials, such as elastocaloric materials for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, refrigeration; application and magnetocaloric materials for gas liquefaction; advanced soft magnetic materials, such as high silicon electrical steel for inductors, transformers, and motors; permanent magnetic materials, such as Mn-based, rare-earth-free permanent magnetic materials and rare-earth permanent magnets with high toughness; high temperature anti-ferroelectric capacitor materials; and ferroelastic shape memory alloys. The overall materials development strategy is theory guided high throughput experimentation, utilizing DFT-based computation to identify alloy composition space and combinatorial bulk synthesis and scanning materials characterization techniques to discover, and down-select candidate compositions. He holds joint positions with Ames Laboratory and the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Iowa State University.
Dr. Lin Zhou received her Materials Science and Engineering Ph. D. in 2006 from Arizona State University, and then worked in the Physics Department as an assistant research scientist till she joined Ames Lab in 2012. Dr. Zhou is currently an associate scientist in Ames Lab and an adjunct faculty of Materials Science and Engineering department at Iowa State University. She also provides scientific oversight on staff/postdocs and instruments in the Sensitive Instrument Facility in Ames Lab. Dr. Zhou’s research focuses on understanding structure-property relationship down to atomic level, as well as exploring mechanism and dynamic of phase transitions, induced by heat/cooling, magnetic field, electric biasing, and mechanical force, using advanced in situ electron-beam related techniques. The materials systems that Dr. Zhou is interested in include magnetic alloys, two-dimensional materials, ferroelectric oxides and semiconductor thin films.
His areas of expertise include synthesis, structure, experimental thermodynamics, physical and chemical properties of intermetallic compounds containing rare earth metals, anomalous behavior of 4f-electron systems, magnetostructural phase transformations, physical properties of ultra-pure rare earth metals, caloric materials and systems, mechanochemistry, mechanically induced solid state reactions and mechanochemical transformations, and relationships between composition, structure, physical and chemical properties of materials. He is a distinguished professor of Materials, Science, and Engineering at Iowa State University, and is an FWP leader and faculty scientist at Ames Laboratory. He is a member of the Materials Research Society, Royal Society of Chemistry, and International Centre for Diffraction Data. He has his doctorate in inorganic chemistry and a bachelor’s and master’s in chemistry (with distinction), both from L’viv State University, L’viv, Ukraine.
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