ISU Materials Preparation Center director to appear in ‘NOVA’ special

Elizabeth Polsdofer

Nested under the periodic table of elements are two rows due to the inability of the rows to fit well into the periodic table. The rare earth materials are the part of the periodic table headed by lanthanum and actinium, and the demand for the increase in rare earth research is a key feature for the U.S. Department of Energy Ames Laboratory.

Larry Jones, the director of the Materials Preparation Center of the Ames Laboratory, said one of most important rare earth elements is neodymium, which is used in rare earth magnets because it produces a particularly strong and cheap magnet. Rare earth magnets are used in computer hard drives, headphones and wind turbine generators.

“We currently have work on going in the lab that is funded by the private sector to improve the performance of the neodymium magnet alloys at higher temperatures,” Jones said, “So there’s this still some fundamental research to trying to improve the alloys.”

All this and more will appear in “Hunting the Elements,” an episode of “NOVA,” a science series run by Iowa Public Television, featuring Ames Laboratory’s rare earth research. Jones will appear in the NOVA special as an educator to David Pogue, the host of “Hunting the Elements.”

“This will be my first time on probably television period,” Jones said. “The one thing I hope that comes out of it is that I don’t embarrass myself.”