Mines News

Release Date Tuesday, August 23, 2016

$200,000 Grant Supports Mines Research, Economic Development

Juergen Reichenbacher, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Physics, outside the low-radon laboratory on campus.


RAPID CITY, S.D. (Aug. 23, 2016) – The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has been awarded a $200,000 grant to develop projects with a high potential for economic development in the state, the Board of Regents announced today.

Over the past decade, SD Mines has been supporting efforts at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in nearby Lead and building a strong expertise and infrastructure toward synthesis of high-value organic products from biomass.

The new grant will enhance existing projects, including two research endeavors at the Sanford Lab. Another project will expand on the university’s current success to commercialize a biomass liquefaction process.

Matching commitments and additional funding sources bring the total to $342,424, which will purchase essential scientific instrumentation.

“Enabling more research-based economic development is now a major issue for the state. We teach and impart knowledge to the next generation, but we also develop new knowledge through research that can spin off ideas for businesses and connect with places like the Sanford Lab,” said Heather Wilson, SD Mines president.

Projects to receive the new research and development funding:

  • Development of a novel system reducing the radon concentration underground at the Sanford Lab, enabling future experiments in this facility. This project is being led by Richard Schnee, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Physics.
  • Development of two low-background detectors that will provide new capabilities important not only for planned underground physics experiments but also for industrial applications, especially in semiconductor and nuclear security sectors. This project is being led by Juergen Reichenbacher, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Physics.
  • Selective liquefaction of lignin and biomass wastes, recently discovered at SD Mines. The quantity of available lignin and biomass wastes generated by the paper industry, bio-refineries and agricultural facilities every year exceeds hundreds of millions of tons. The new approach allows synthesis of high-value organic products in a continuous flow tubular reactor under supercritical carbon dioxide conditions. By using this new continuous flow reactor, this approach may become feasible for industrial applications. This project is being led by Alla Smirnova, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry & Applied Biological Sciences.

“These research and development projects will provide unique training for students and attract external funding to secure continuous economic growth of the region,” according to Jan Puszynski, Ph.D., vice president for research at Mines and principal investigator of the grant. “SURF is an internationally recognized asset with the capacity to generate high-value research outcomes and applications that cut across all target industry sector markets.”


About SD Mines  

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 2,778 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate for graduates is 97 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $61,300. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat

Contact: Fran LeFort, (605) 394-6082, Fran.LeFort@sdsmt.edu