Turning Ideas Into Reality - Projects in Progress II

ARPA-E focuses on next-generation energy innovation to create a sustainable energy future. The agency provides R&D support to businesses, universities, and national labs to develop technologies that could fundamentally change the way we get, use, and store energy. Since 2009, ARPA-E has provided approximately $2 billion in support to more than 800 energy technology projects.

Last month, we introduced a new series to highlight the transformational technology our project teams are developing across the energy portfolio. Check out these projects turning ideas into reality:

University of Minnesota Develops Rare-earth-free Magnets

As part of ARPA-E’s REACT program, the University of Minnesota (UMN) developed an early stage prototype of an iron-nitride permanent magnet material for electric vehicles (EVs) and generators powered by renewable energy. The team’s material is comprised entirely of low-cost and abundant resources and demonstrates the highest energy potential of any existing magnet to date. With the help of ARPA-E funds, the team’s work has provided the basis for a new class of rare-earth-free magnets capable of generating power without costly and scarce materials.

Since completing its ARPA-E award, the University of Minnesota team created a spinout startup company, Niron Magnetics. Niron is developing the first advanced manufacturing process for the mass production of the iron-nitride permanent magnets. This novel magnet has higher magnetization and can be produced at scale at lower costs than today’s technology. The technology offers a cost-effective alternative to costly, rare-earth magnets, and can be used for electric motors and renewable power generators. The development process of Niron’s scalable method has resulted in the publication of 20 peer-reviewed scientific papers as well as 17 granted and 35 pending patents.

Niron’s novel iron-nitride permanent magnet (Image obtained from Niron’s website)

Citrine deploys AI to Inform Materials Development

Citrine Informatics developed a proof-of-concept system that uses experimental work to intelligently guide the investigation of new solid ionic conductor materials. The project established a novel approach to material discovery and a new direction for developing promising ionic conductors. The Citrine team aggregated data relevant to ionic conductors from published literature to build a machine learning platform. Citrine’s platform provides researchers with near-real-time feedback as they perform experiments, allowing them to dynamically select the most promising research pathways. The technology unlocks more rapid ionic conductor identification and development and transforms the fields of theoretical and experimental materials science.

Citrine Informatics continues to lead in materials informatics following its ARPA-E IDEAS award. The company is deploying its artificial intelligence platform across several global chemicals and materials companies including Panasonic, HRL Laboratories, and BASF. Citrine partnered with several universities, national labs, and consortia to manage their data and to accelerate materials research. In 2017, the company received $27.6 million in private follow-on funding, including $7.6 million in Series A financing from Innovation Endeavors, Prelude Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, Data Collective, and XSeed Capital. In 2019, the company announced it had received $20 million in Series B funding from Prelude Ventures, Innovation Endeavors, Moore Strategic Ventures, and Next47—among others. Citrine Informatics was recognized with the 2018 Start-up of the Year Award, 2018 Artificial Intelligence Breakthrough Award, and a 2017 CB Insights Innovation AI 100 award.