Obama program aims to speed discovery, delivery of advanced materials
Rice University will host a regional workshop on President Obama’s Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) on campus Dec. 9-10.
The initiative revealed by Obama in 2011 aims to double the speed and reduce the cost of discovering, developing and deploying advanced materials. The effort, he said, will bolster American manufacturing and help solve problems that can be addressed only with advanced materials. The workshop is in collaboration with MGI.
“This is an important event for the Houston area, bringing experts from academia, industry and government together to address how to accelerate the insertion of materials into critical needs of energy-related infrastructure, such as revolutionary drilling materials that require the integration of discovery, design, processing and manufacturing and testing.” said Ned Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice.
“The MGI workshop will help define future collaborative research programs that span innovation to implementation in this important area. The United States needs to exert efforts in these fundamental areas to stimulate the economy and create high-tech jobs,” he said.
When Obama introduced the Materials Genome Initiative two years ago, he said, “The invention of silicon circuits and lithium-ion batteries made computers and iPods and iPads possible, but it took years to get those technologies from the drawing board to the marketplace. We can do it faster.”
The choice of the genome as a metaphor for the program refers to Obama’s hope that advanced materials will become the building blocks for new technologies in the same way that analysis of the human genome has become a building block for new health initiatives.
Rapid discovery of basic materials would help promote the commercialization of many new products. Examples include stronger and lighter materials for vehicles, tough materials that can withstand extreme environments and bulletproof materials to protect law-enforcement officers and soldiers, according to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
In the administration’s vision, computer modeling of advanced materials would replace much of the time-consuming trial-and-error research that now takes place in industry and university laboratories. It would also accelerate the development of efficient manufacturing processes to turn materials into products.
Thomas said Rice is positioned well to host the workshop, with its own respected materials science program, its pioneering nanotechnology research, its strength in high-performance computing and its proximity to Houston’s energy sector and NASA.
“Whether we’re talking about high-efficiency, high-temperature jet engines, solar cells that generate electricity as inexpensively as coal, wind turbines that use magnets free of rare-earth elements or the biocompatibility of replacement joints and implants, materials matter,” said Cyrus Wadia, the OSTP’s assistant director for clean energy and materials research and development. “The Materials Genome Initiative is catalyzing important collaborative advances from industry, academia and the federal government, so that together we can secure the nation’s future as a leader in this critical technological domain.”
The Rice workshop will be held in McMurtry Auditorium in Duncan Hall and is one of several regional efforts supporting the program. Other events are scheduled for Atlanta, Boston and Los Angeles. The workshop agenda and details about how members of industry, academia and government can register will be posted at http://mgi.rice.edu.