See how ISU research is part of your everyday life at the Iowa State Fair

Ikenna Nlebedim at Critical Materials Institute

Ikenna Nlebedim, scientist at Ames Lab and the Critical Materials Institute, loads hard drives into a specialized shredder that can quickly turn obsolete technologies into a mound of pulverized scrap from which scientists can recover and reuse rare-earth metals. Photo provided by Ames Lab.

AMES, Iowa — Everyday items like your cell phone and future refrigerator are shaped by research conducted at the Ames National Laboratory.

Ames Lab will demonstrate its innovation in action at the Iowa State Fair as part of its 75th anniversary celebration. Ames Lab is the only U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located on the campus of a major research university. It began as part of the Manhattan Project and was named a national laboratory by the Atomic Energy Commission (now the Department of Energy) in 1947.

Fairgoers will have an opportunity to learn how Ames Lab is tackling big challenges at Iowa State University’s exhibit, “Innovation Revolution,” in the Varied Industries Building.

The exhibit will include three interactive stations for attendees to learn how Ames Lab research is impactful in their daily lives, as well as to showcase research on the horizon. The exhibit is open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. every day of the fair, Aug. 11-21.

“When we make materials at Ames National Laboratory, our goal is to solve a problem,” said Adam Schwartz, director of Ames Lab and professor of materials science and engineering. “How do we reduce the amount of lead in electronics? How do we address global plastic pollution? How do we make refrigeration systems better for the environment?

“We want Iowans to come away excited about the science that is happening right here in their state.”

No toxicity allowed

Lead-free solder, which joins together metals that would otherwise be joined by toxic lead, was invented at Ames Lab and patented in 1996. This safer, more environmentally friendly solder is now used in billions of computers, mobile devices and other electronics.

This section of the exhibit will showcase electronics in which lead-free solder is used.

Steer clear of the landfill

Upcycling is the process of finding new and innovative uses for an item that would otherwise wind up in a landfill. Ames Lab scientists are developing new catalysts that turn discarded plastics into more valuable chemicals by breaking them down into precise components. These components form the building blocks for high-value chemicals that can be used in products like detergents and synthetic oils.

This station will feature a sculpture made from collected plastics, as well as a display of items that will one day be created through the upcycling process, including motor oil, shampoo, deodorant, makeup, sunscreen and soap.

Researchers are also working on ways to recycle critical materials from single-use items, including a new technology that efficiently recovers rare earths and other valuable elements from shredded computer hard drives. Visitors will see how hard drives are broken down through acid-free dissolution and used to create new materials.

Cool in more ways than one

The third station will highlight atomized metal powders, which are used in additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing. The development of ideal metal powders for industry results in more efficient manufacturing systems, less material waste and more reliable product quality.

This station will also feature CaloriSMART, a one-of-a-kind system that uses magnetic forces to cool 20-25% more efficiently than current gas compression technology in refrigerators.

Athletic trophies, apparel and souvenirs

Visitors of the ISU exhibit will also see the CyHawk trophy and receive football posters and dry temporary tattoos.

The ISU Book Store will have a wide variety of Iowa State merchandise, gifts and apparel for sale, including Farm Strong T-shirts and gifts and new fall game-day gear.

Participate in 4-H activities throughout the fair

Throughout the fair, look for 4-H youth activities and exhibits in the Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building, including 3,200 static exhibits and 750 communication event performances. In addition, nearly 2,200 4-H youth will exhibit more than 9,000 livestock and horticulture entries in the livestock buildings and other agriculture venues. The colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Liberal Arts and Sciences will award scholarships to selected 4-H’ers.

4-H is headquartered at Iowa State and available in all 99 counties.

4-H Day on the Grand Concourse will be Aug. 12 in the 4-H Youth Development tent. From 9 a.m.-5 p.m., explore the 4-H priority areas through interactive, hands-on learning experiences. From 11 a.m.-1 p.m., stop by the tent to receive a cooling towel.

A full list of 4-H activities at the Iowa State Fair can be found here:

ISU veterinarians taking care of animals

Two veterinarians from the College of Veterinary Medicine will oversee the health of all animals at the fair. They are Rachel Friedrich and Megan Hindman, both clinical assistant professors of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine.

Assisting the veterinarians will be fourth-year veterinary medicine students Melissa Garcia Rodriguez, of Des Moines; Kelsey Gerwig, of Winterset; Amberly Van Hulzen, of Auburn; and McKenna Von Rentzell, of Earlham.

The college will present Aug. 12 and 14 at the Advanced Vet Camp for students in grades 4-7, with Dave Gieseke, communications director for the college, serving as one of the featured speakers.

Dan Grooms, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, will show a steer raised by Holland and Carson Rieck of Creston at the 40th annual Governor’s Charity Steer Show on Aug. 13. John Lawrence, vice president of ISU Extension and Outreach, will show a steer raised by Brady Werner of Williamsburg.