The goal of the MGI and the mission of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are tightly aligned. NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance national economic security and improve quality of life. MGI addresses precisely these mission elements by providing the means to reduce the cost and development time of materials discovery, optimization, and deployment. Both missions are driven by industrial competitiveness, with the creation of a Materials Innovation Infrastructure as the means to this end.
The 2021 MGI strategic plan lays out three goals:
- Unify the materials innovation infrastructure
- Harness the power of materials data
- Educate, train, and connect the materials R&D workforce.
NIST plays a crucial role in achieving all these goals. In particular, NIST has decades of expertise in the integration, curation, and provisioning of critically evaluated data. Thus, NIST has a leadership role within MGI. To foster widespread adoption of the MGI paradigm both across and within materials development ecosystems, NIST focuses on the many issues around the exchange of materials data, and the means to ensure the quality of materials data and models. These efforts have yielded new methods, metrologies, and capabilities necessary for accelerated materials development. The NIST MGI effort also anticipated the application of artificial intelligence techniques to materials design, and has a deep portfolio in this exciting new area. At the same time, we continue to work with the community to understand the additional challenges that must be overcome.
NIST is engaged in projects to develop and unify key aspects of the Materials Innovation Infrastructure, identify challenges in the infrastructure’s establishment and integration, and serve as case studies for the broader MGI effort. NIST is working with stakeholders in industry, academia, and government to develop
- standards, tools, and techniques enabling acquisition, representation, and discovery of materials data
- interoperability of computer simulations of materials phenomena across multiple length and timescales;
- quality assessments of materials data, models, and simulations.
To manage the many technical and social challenges around the materials data infrastructure, NIST leveraged seed funding from the National Science Foundation to support the Materials Research Data Alliance, a materials R&D community effort in the spirit of the National Materials Data Network called for in the MGI 2021 strategic plan.
To help to achieve these ambitious goals, in 2013 a NIST Center of Excellence was founded as a collaboration between NIST and a Chicago-based team: the Center for Hierarchical Materials Design (CHiMaD). The CHiMaD has focused on developing the next generation of computational tools, databases and experimental techniques to enable “Materials by Design,” one of the primary goals of the MGI. The CHiMaD focuses these techniques on a particularly difficult challenge, the discovery of novel “hierarchical materials.” The CHiMaD’s efforts have resulted in numerous new materials, models, tools, and capabilities, and has trained many new Ph.D.s in the state-of-the-art in MGI approaches to materials R&D.