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Anderson, Iver

Published onJul 30, 2021
Anderson, Iver

(October 7, 1953 - )

Quick Facts

Iver Anderson holds 42 patents (and counting) as a researcher for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and professor in Iowa State’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. His U.S. Patent for lead-free solder is the top-earning patent to date for the university.


Born in 1953, Anderson grew up in Hancock, Michigan (part of the Upper Peninsula), and was influenced by the natural marvels of the 40 acres of woods in which he and his friends played. Rocks and minerals prompted much curiosity and his father inspired close observation and meticulous craftsmanship.

Anderson received his B.S. in Metallurgical Engineering in 1975 from Michigan Technology University, Houghton, Michigan, his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Metallurgical Engineering in 1977 and 1982 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After 5 years as a metallurgist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory he accepted an appointment in 1987 at Iowa State as a senior metallurgist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. He later was accepted as an adjunct professor in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE). In later years, Anderson would say, “University-laboratory collaboration was a big boost to research. The university is a source of graduate student and postdoctoral talent and there’s faculty expertise in the College of Engineering. If we were at any other national lab and didn’t have our faculty next-door neighbors, we would not have had the horsepower for the projects we undertook”

In 1991, Anderson received an R&D-100 Award in recognition of his pioneering development of the powder and process for injection molding of rare-earth-iron-boron magnets in complex shapes. This prestigious award is from a publishing company to honor novel research that leads to industrial applications.

In 2008, Anderson received the Excellence in Research recognition from the MSE Department, College of Engineering for outstanding achievement in research and scholarship. The award particularly recognizes research that leads to industrial applications.

In 2013, he was selected by the Iowa State University College of Engineering for the D.R. Boylan Eminent Faculty Award for Research. This was recognition of the translation of a significant body of research to a commercial application with large impact.

In 2016, Anderson was named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). The NAI Fellows Selection Committee credited Anderson for demonstrating a “highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and welfare of society.” 

Ames Laboratory Director, Adam Schwartz said, “Iver has dedicated his career to conducting outstanding research. He has accomplished much and we fully expect his list of inventions to grow further.” 

On May 4, 2017, Anderson was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF). Anderson was recognized for developing lead-free solder, an alloy of tin, silver and copper that is now used worldwide in most consumer electronic devices such as smart phones, laptops and tablets. As a result of Anderson’s discovery, well over 50,000 tons of lead per year will no longer be released into the environment worldwide, according to the NIHF. 

The NIHF partners with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to celebrate American innovation by recognizing inventors and invention, promoting creativity and advancing the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. Anderson said, “Many scientists spend years working on a project they hope will one day make it into the marketplace.  This award is confirmation of the hard work that was put in by my team and me for the betterment of our society.”

In approaching the problem of lead-free solder, Anderson was challenged when his thesis advisor told him that it was impossible to develop a lead-free solder alloy in the system that he was talking to him about using. But Anderson thought it was worth looking at. He said, “Science exists to solve problems, but the questions have to be relevant. The motivation is especially strong to solve a problem if someone says it’s not possible to solve it. It makes me feel warm inside to have solved one issue that will help us going into the future.”

His U.S. Patent #5,527,628 for lead-free solder was the top-earning patent in the history of both Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University with royalty income that totaled $58,628,649 before it expired in 2013. More than 60 companies based in 13 countries licensed the invention. With several billion computers, mobile devices and other electronic systems in use, the dangers of lead in the work place and in land-fills caused concern for human health and environmental safety, leading to adoption of lead-free requirements for all but a small number of special electronic devices. Anderson and his group continued to study and improve the lead-free solders, seeking resistance to thermal-mechanical fatigue and to drop impact shocks.

Anderson’s other major area of research was powdered metals. He and his colleagues explored the use of gas-atomization technology to produce fine, spherical titanium powder for additive manufacturing and metal injection molding.   

Three-dimensional metal printers work by taking metal powders and melting or binding layer after layer of the metal. Different printing technologies require powders of slightly different sizes and consistent regularities for best results. Anderson worked to solve consistency problems, leading to studies of the nozzle and spray technologies that produce the powders. That meant understanding the physics of the temperatures, pressures and velocities in the particle sprays.

Powder metallurgy is an advanced metalworking process that forms metal powders into precision components used in applications such as automobile engines and transmissions, medical implants and surgical tools, hardware, industrial machinery, sporting goods, defense and firearms. More than 800 million pounds of powder metallurgy parts are made annually in North America. For his dedicated research in powder processing, Anderson received the "Distinguished Service to Powder Metallurgy" award from the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF) in 2017.

In 2016, Ames Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (TN) were awarded $5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) to improve the production and composition of metal alloy powders used in additive manufacturing. The project sought to develop advances in the high pressure gas atomization process pioneered at Ames Laboratory and designing and customizing alloys specifically for additive manufacturing processing methods.

In 2017, Anderson and his team won the Excellence in Technology Transfer in the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) Award Competition for the unique titanium atomization process. His project team included Andy Heidloff and Joel Reiken, formerly of Ames Laboratory and now of Praxair Surface Technologies, Inc. and David Byrd, Ross Anderson and Emma White of Ames Laboratory. The FLC recognized the development of a “hot-shot” pour tube at Ames Laboratory. The tube enabled a dramatic shift in manufacturing away from traditional titanium casting/forging methods to net-shape forming — a materials and energy efficient powder consolidation technique.

That high-efficiency nozzle produced titanium powder that is ~10 times more efficient than traditional powder-making methods, lowering the cost of fine, spherical titanium powder to manufacturers by as much as 80 percent.  Titanium is known for its high strength, light weight, biocompatibility and resistance to corrosion - ideal for a variety of parts. The FLC promotes and strengthens technology transfer nationwide. More than 300 federal laboratories, facilities and research centers and their parent agencies make up the FLC community.

At this writing in 2017, Anderson holds 42 patents.

The Hancock, MI native in 2016 led the nomination of the Quincy Smelter Works in Ripley, MI as an ASM Historical Landmark, for which it was selected in 2017. In recognition of his career success and service to his profession and to Michigan Tech, Anderson was inducted into the Materials Science and Engineering Academy in 2018 and received the Michigan Tech University’s 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award.

Selected Sources

Gathered from news items from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Ames Laboratory and ISU News Service by Katherine Svec and Laura Milsaps

Anderson named to National Academy of Inventors. January 19, 2016 by Aimee Burch. Story originally published by The Ames Laboratory.

Video: The Iver Anderson Story, by the National Inventors Hall of Fame - NIHF, 2017.

Iver E. Anderson Papers, RS 11/12/02 and RS 17/01/02, University Archives, Iowa State University Library.

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