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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
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Summary

Research, development, and commercialization of advanced materials have historically required extensive trial and error, meticulous planning, and expensive infrastructure. This process typically takes 10 to 20 years, or more,1 to transition the results of materials research into real-world applications. The Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) was launched in 2011 by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to help accelerate the design, discovery, development, and deployment of advanced materials and to reduce costs through the integration of advanced computation and data management with experimental synthesis and characterization. A broad range of federal agencies—including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense—are part of the MGI effort and have invested more than $1 billion in resources and infrastructure accumulative since the start.

NSF’s efforts have been focused largely within the Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF) program, which supports the development of fundamental science, computational, and experimental tools for

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1 Naturally, the time varies with the field and if there are regulatory issues. In the MGI White paper from 2011, the following example is given on page 6: “The lithium ion battery, which is ubiquitous in today’s portable electronic devices, altered the landscape of modern information technologies; however, it took 20 years to move these batteries from a laboratory concept proposed in the mid 1970s to wide market adoption and use in the late 1990s.” See National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), 2011, “Materials Genome Initiative for Global Competitiveness,” White paper by the ad-hoc interagency Group on Advanced Materials, https://www.mgi.gov/sites/default/files/documents/materials_genome_initiative-final.pdf.

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×

generating and managing data, and a workforce that enables industry and other government agencies to develop and deploy materials that meet societal needs and national priorities.

In order to evaluate the goals, progress, and scientific accomplishments of the DMREF program within the context of similar efforts both within the United States and abroad, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine established the 19-member Committee on Advising NSF on Its Efforts to Achieve the Nation’s Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative in June 2021.

During the course of this 15-month study, the committee met, always virtually, with national and international representatives from academia and industry (see Appendix C). In addition to its full meetings, the committee solicited input from relevant communities in the form of small, focused groups that met primarily by video or teleconference. High-level, strategic recommendations are presented in this report, aligning DMREF to take full advantage of existing and future opportunities to accelerate the progression of materials research from fundamentals to deployment.

Key issues addressed by the committee include the effectiveness of DMREF in the following areas:

  • Incorporating into its efforts the full scope and breadth of materials research and engaging with the greater scientific and engineering community;
  • Accessing resources in relevant parts of NSF and coordinating with other federal agencies that participate in the MGI;
  • Responding to new developments in data-related sciences, including the application of artificial intelligence (AI);
  • Accelerating the progression of fundamental materials research toward deployment and manufacturing; and
  • Attracting and developing an innovative and diverse talent pool.

Throughout the course of this study, the committee heard from national and international communities on DMREF’s impacts and opportunities. The committee found that DMREF’s focus on fundamental science and theoretical-experimental integration in a “bottom-up” framework has produced groundbreaking research on many fronts that has been critical to the progress of the MGI, and work supported by DMREF will continue to be critical to the continued progress of the MGI as the program evolves into the future. Furthermore, this focus has had a critical impact on reshaping education and practice within materials science and engineering. As DMREF matures, it should position itself to reach its ultimate goal to deploy advanced materials that meet national priorities at least twice as fast as possible today at a fraction of the cost by deliberately engaging industry and federal agencies.

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×

Below are key findings from the study and key recommendations for continuing to strengthen the success and impact of DMREF in the future. The full list of findings and recommendations can be found in Chapter 7.

KEY FINDINGS

KEY FINDING 2.1: DMREF’s focus on fundamental science and theoretical-experimental integration in a “bottom-up” framework has produced groundbreaking research on many fronts that has been critical to the progress of the MGI, and work supported by DMREF will continue to be critical to the continued progress of the MGI as the program evolves in the future.

KEY FINDING 6.1: To have an impact, advances in computational methods must be made available through codes that can be readily identified and adopted by researchers in the field.

KEY FINDING 6.3: Data (including negative results) should be considered research output on the same footing as physical insights, methods, materials, and processes.

KEY FINDING 6.4: DMREF is uniquely situated to promote the integration of theory, modeling, experimentation, data science, robotics, and other novel directions that may arise in materials research.

KEY FINDING 6.5: Advances in robotics and AI may enable a much faster way to obtain experimental data, thereby further reducing the time for materials optimization consistent with the MGI and DMREF goals.

KEY FINDING 6.9: Scientists at government laboratories typically have a perspective on the MGI that reflects their agencies’ mission; therefore, academic/laboratory partnerships can help academic researchers gain fresh perspective on the fundamental scientific challenges most relevant to the MGI. A recent DMREF program announcement (NSF 21-522) encouraged investigators to partner with groups at AFRL, and this led to a significant number of new scientific partnerships. The panel has a favorable view of such activity, and statistics on how these partnerships meet the goals will be interesting to see in the future. However, NSF should not give the impression that such partnerships are required for participation in DMREF, since this could narrow participation to a relatively small subset of the scientific community.

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×

KEY FINDING 6.13: Many mission-oriented agencies conduct deep dives and detailed workshops to identify scientific and technical gaps for various functional areas and also develop roadmaps for these areas, which are valuable for guiding effort in fundamental research.

KEY FINDING 6.14: NSF could amplify the impacts of the DMREF program by easing the transition of successful basic science research to higher technology readiness levels.

KEY FINDING 4.1: The degree to which students are educated about the broader context and goals of the MGI, and the degree of integration and interdisciplinarity of their training, is very uneven among different DMREF projects.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

KEY RECOMMENDATION 4.1: Students, postdoctoral associates, and other junior scientists associated with DMREF projects should develop substantial understanding of all aspects of the project, beyond those aspects that are the primary focus of their work. DMREF should encourage and help principal investigators to develop and implement the interdisciplinary training that this entails.

KEY RECOMMENDATION 6.1: DMREF should continue to welcome projects that identify and fill gaps in computational approaches to achieve critically needed improvements in breadth, accuracy, and efficiency.

KEY RECOMMENDATION 6.4: NSF and DMREF should take a leadership role to support the development of a national plan for a platform that creates interoperable systems that allow for comprehensive collection, dissemination, and use of computational and experimental data. Such an effort will also contribute to the global effort toward efficient and effective curation and maintenance of materials science data.

KEY RECOMMENDATION 6.6: DMREF should continue working toward the goal of integration of theory, modeling, experimentation, and related fields by funding integrated teams and by identifying and encouraging the development of innovative approaches that address the bottlenecks to successful integration.

KEY RECOMMENDATION 6.7: DMREF should enhance material discovery by revolutionizing experimental approaches to efficiently explore synthesis

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×

and processing parameter space through automated and autonomous processes that integrate synthesis, processing, characterization, analysis, and simulation.

KEY RECOMMENDATION 6.11: DMREF should continue to encourage partnership and collaboration between grantees and researchers in government laboratories to provide diverse perspectives on the fundamental scientific challenges most relevant to the Materials Genome Initiative.

KEY RECOMMENDATION 6.15: DMREF should engage with mission-oriented agencies to obtain input on identified fundamental science gaps that most critically need to be closed to address the nation’s needs as demonstrated in the Materials Genome Initiative’s national grand challenges.

KEY RECOMMENDATION 6.16: NSF should create new opportunities for translational funding, potentially through a supplemental mechanism, to provide timely support during DMREF projects that are at the cusp of deployment, with the potential for generating intellectual property or commercial spinoffs. Synergies should be sought, in particular, with the new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships and others such as the Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry program, the Innovation Corps program, and the Partnerships for Innovation program.

A FINAL WORD

NSF has positioned itself as the MGI partner that through DMREF develops the fundamental science, computational and experimental tools for generating and managing data, and workforce that enable industry and other government agencies to develop and deploy materials that meet societal and national needs. Furthermore, the focus on theoretical-experimental integration has had critical impact on reshaping education and practice within materials science and engineering. As DMREF matures, it should continue to increase its engagement with industry and federal agencies to identify key questions and transition the results from its fundamental science efforts to reach the MGI goal of deploying advanced materials at least twice as fast as possible today, at a fraction of the cost, that meet national priorities. This report offers some recommendations that the committee believes constructive in this effort.

Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×

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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
Page 3
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
Page 4
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
Page 5
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. NSF Efforts to Achieve the Nation's Vision for the Materials Genome Initiative: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26723.
×
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The Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) was launched in 2011 by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to help accelerate the design, discovery, development and deployment of advanced materials and to reduce costs through the integration of advanced computation and data management with experimental synthesis and characterization. A broad range of federal agencies - including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense - are part of the MGI effort and have invested more than $1 billion in resources and infrastructure accumulative since the start.

The efforts of NSF have been focused largely within the Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF) program, which supports the development of fundamental science, computational and experimental tools for generating and managing data, and workforce that enable industry and other government agencies to develop and deploy materials that meet societal needs and national priorities. At the request of NSF, this report evaluates the goals, progress, and scientific accomplishments of the DMREF program within the context of similar efforts both within the United States and abroad. The recommendations of this report will assist NSF as it continues to increase its engagement with industry and federal agencies to transition the results from fundamental science efforts to reach the MGI goal of deploying advanced materials at least twice as fast as possible today, at a fraction of the cost that meet national priorities.

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