RAPID CITY, S.D. (Feb. 24, 2014) – A faculty team at the
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has
been awarded $999,998 in funding from the U.S. Department of Defense – Army
Research Lab through a subaward from the University of Alabama.
Focusing on novel extraction
technologies for rare earth ores, the research will use a multidisciplinary
approach to develop new leaching and concentration techniques and strategies
for recovery of rare earth metals. The School of Mines has a long tradition of
research related to the metallurgy associated with mineral concentration and
Rare earth metals, derived from
their ores, have been deemed critical to the nation’s economy and defense. End
uses for rare earth elements include applications in petroleum refining, cell
phones, laptops, wind turbines, jet fighter engines, missile guidance systems,
antimissile defense and hybrid vehicles.
For years, China has been the
largest supplier of rare earth metals due to a generous supply of resources and
economical extraction techniques. However, in recent years, China announced a halt in production of some of its
major rare earth mines. This reduction in exports placed increased
pressure on the global market to meet the explosive demand.
With fears of a shortage, mining,
extracting and refining these rare earth metals became a top priority, even
lending the resource a new moniker: critical strategic metals. Adding to the
challenge is the difficulty of the extraction process. Many easy ores – ores where
metal is readily visible – have already been processed, and as the grade of ore
deteriorates, extraction technologies must become inversely advanced.
As of now, there is only one active
source in the United States and four universities researching extraction
techniques – the School of Mines among them.
“Mines is one of the few university’s in the nation that
still teaches and does research in extractive metallurgy – getting metals from
rocks. The supplies of these rare metals are currently dominated by China, and,
as a nation, we need to develop secure sources of supply in North
America. Our researchers have made progress in this area already, and I’m
glad we will continue to do so through the effort funded by the Defense
Department,” said Mines President Heather Wilson.
Faculty members involved at the
School of Mines are Jon Kellar, Ph.D., Michael West, Ph.D., William Cross, Ph.D.,
Sadegh Safarzadeh, Ph.D., Kenneth Han, Ph.D., Department of Materials &
Metallurgical Engineering, and David Boyles, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry
& Applied Biological Sciences.
Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines &
Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid
City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university
enrolls 2,640 students from 45 states and 37 countries, with a
student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The average starting salary for graduates is
$62,400 with a 98 percent placement rate. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sdsmt and on
Twitter at https://twitter.com/sdsmt.