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Research@Mines Archive:
January, 2020

The Quest to Control the Voxel and the 3D Printing Revolution to Come

Travis Walker, Ph.D., holds an example of a 3D printed item made with two different materials. He and Katrina Donovan, Ph.D., say this object is a large-scale example of the kind of 3D printed materials now possible at scales smaller than a human hair.

Imagine camouflage that renders a subject almost invisible; prosthetic limbs that look and feel like real appendages; smartphone battery power that’s embedded throughout the thin fabric of your clothing; windows that direct light to different parts of the room throughout the day. All of these ideas and much more may be possible with a new age of material science that is now unfolding. Researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology are learning to manipulate the basic properties of innovative materials to enable revolutionary new products.

“We’re really trying to enhance voxel-level engineering,” says Travis Walker, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at South Dakota Mines.

So, what’s a voxel? In photography, the sharpness of an image depends on the number of pixels per inch. More pixels in an image yield more vivid detail.

Move into three dimensions, and resolution is not determined by pixels, but voxels. Like digital photography, the resolution in 3D printing technology keeps getting better. Today, researchers are working to manipulate single voxel sizes that are smaller than the diameter of a human hair. This effort means very fine and detailed 3D printing.

The next evolution in 3D printing may involve the ability to change the properties of a material, voxel by voxel. Just as many different colored pixels make...

Last Edited 2/3/2020 09:15:48 PM [Comments (0)]

Radio-Pure Nearly a Mile Down: Keeping Dark Matter Detectors Clean and Accurate

Eric Morrison a Ph.D. graduate student at South Dakota Mines in front of the air purifier used with LZ.

If you want to breathe some of the most radioactive free, or “radio-pure,” air on earth, go 4,850 feet underground to the site of the LZ (LUX-ZEPLIN) experiment at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF).

A research team at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has built an air purifier that has reduced the radon in the air to about 50 times lower than typical outdoor air. The team is helping to ensure success for one of the world’s most sensitive dark matter experiments — LZ. Dark matter has never been directly observed. But it is believed to make up 85% of all the matter in the universe. The mystery of dark matter is considered to be one of the most pressing questions in particle physics. The LZ experiment is run deep underground where it will be protected from high-energy particles, called cosmic radiation, which can create unwanted background signals. But underground environments pose other challenges. They are often higher in radon, which can also impede sensitive experiments.

“Usually the concentration of radon underground is quite high, but the equipment that has been installed in SURF reduces radon background by a factor of a thousand,” says Richard Schnee, Ph.D., the physics department head at...

Last Edited 2/3/2020 09:16:58 PM [Comments (0)]