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A D V A N C E D M A T E R I A L S & P R O C E S S E S | S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 6

ASM International

9639 Kinsman Road, Materials Park, OH 44073

Tel: 440.338.5151 • Fax: 440.338.4634

Frances Richards,


Julie Lucko,


Ed Kubel and Erika Steinberg,

Contributing Editors

Jim Pallotta,

Creative Director

Kate Fornadel,

Layout and Design

Kelly Sukol,

Production Manager

Press Release Editor


Jaimie Tiley,


U.S. Air Force Research Lab

Somuri Prasad,

Vice Chair,

Sandia National Lab

Yu-Ping Yang,

Past Chair,


Ellen Cerreta,

Board Liaison,

Los Alamos

National Lab

Steven Claves,

Alcoa Technical Center

Mario Epler,

Carpenter Technology Corp.

Adam Farrow,

Los Alamos National Lab

Nia Harrison,

Ford Motor Co.

Yaakov Idell,


John Shingledecker,


Kumar Sridharan,

University of Wisconsin


Jon D. Tirpak,


William E. Frazier,

Vice President

Sunniva R. Collins,

Immediate Past President

Craig D. Clauser,


Ellen K. Cerreta

Kathryn Dannemann

Ryan M. Deacon

Jacqueline M. Earle

John R. Keough

Zi-Kui Liu

Sudipta Seal

Tirumalai S. Sudarshan

David B. Williams

Tom Dudley,

Interim Managing Director


Swetha Barkam, Allison Fraser, Rachael Stewart

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he Rio 2016 Olympic Games were just as inspiring as

ever, watching the human form do things that seem

completely impossible and against all laws of phys-

ics and gravity. Mastering the sheer willpower, courage,

and years of training it takes to compete at the highest lev-

els of sport is beyond the grasp of most of us, and is what

makes viewing these events so enjoyable. But what about

the medals themselves? Now here’s something that metal-

lurgists and materials scientists of all disciplines will likely appreciate more than

other people.

Interestingly, the last Olympic “gold” medal actually made of pure gold was

awarded in 1912. Now, the National Olympic Committee (NOC) permits signif-

icant freedom to the host city with

regard to the exact medal compo-

sition and design, although certain

rules must be followed. Gold med-

als must be awarded for first place,

measure at least 60 mm in diameter

and 3 mm thick, contain a minimum

of 92.5% silver, and be covered

with at least six grams of pure gold.

Further, although the host city is

allowed to design the medals, the

NOC has the final say on approval.

Each host city also must mint its

own medals.

In Rio, the medals theme

focused on sustainability with this

year being the first time the awards were made with more than 30% recycled

precious metal for both silver and bronze. The silver was recycled from mirrors

and x-ray sheets, while the copper used in the bronze medals was salvaged and

repurposed from the local mint’s old, discarded machinery. In addition, the gold

used in the medals is free of mercury in order to prevent pollution and to be

more health-conscious for the miners. Finally, the medal cases are made of cer-

tified recycled wood that comes from a sustainable environmental management

area in Brazil.

In other news regarding materials innovations, the U.S. Department of

Energy announced in mid-August that it will invest $16 million to accelerate

design of new materials by using supercomputers. Two four-year projects, one

led by DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the other by Lawrence Berke-

ley National Laboratory, intend to use the superfast computers at DOE’s labs by

“developing software todesign fundamentally new functional materials destined

to revolutionize applications in alternative and renewable energy, electronics,

and a wide range of other fields.” Teams include experts from universities as well

as other national labs.

According to the DOE, researchers are expected to develop sophisticated

open-source software to capture the physics of relevant systems, which can then

be used by the broader research community and industry to accelerate design of

new functional materials. Who knows? Results may prove important enough to

win a Nobel Prize, a medal still made of pure gold.


2016 Olympic medals are made of mercury-

free gold and recycled silver and bronze,

and come with sustainable, recycled wood-

en cases. Courtesy of Tomaz Silva/Brazil