Iowa State University nameplate

Inside Iowa State
Gold bar
April 18, 2003

Pickin' up good vibrations

Good for Business
by Debra Gibson
There's a whole lotta shakin' goin' on in the world of Terfenol-D.

This near single crystal metal alloy, known as a transducer or "smart material," converts electrical energy to mechanical work. Depending on the frequencies, Terfenol-D can literally shake the oil out of a rock.

The U.S. Navy turned to Ames Laboratory scientists in the late 1970s to produce a material that would create high-powered sonar to track down enemy submarines. The resulting Terfenol-D technology was licensed by Etrema Products in 1987, and the ISU Research Park tenant has been creating commercial applications ever since.

Want a home theater sound system installed right in your walls, sans speakers or cords? Thank Terfenol-D. This same material can detect oil deep in wells, perfect fuel injection in automobiles, amplify underwater communications for divers, produce smaller and safer hand tools and kill pathogens like E. coli and streptococcus. It's even being studied for possible use in neutralizing hog waste odors.

"Our main purpose has always been to create high-tech jobs here in Iowa," said Jon Snodgrass, Etrema's chief scientist. "We're asked all the time: Why sonar research in the middle of Iowa? Fact is, we wouldn't be here if Ames Lab scientists weren't the world's top experts in rare earth materials."

Iowa State University is good for business.

... Becoming the Best
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
Copyright © 1995-2003, Iowa State University. All rights reserved.