Research Inquiries

For inquiries related to SD Mines Research, contact:

Research Affairs

S.D. School of Mines & Technology
501 E. St. Joseph Street
Suite 102, O'Harra Building
Rapid City, SD  57701

(605) 394-2493

Research@Mines Archive:
November, 2016

Industry Software Gift Aids in Energy Research, Student Career Preparation

From left to right, Ron Jeitz, SD Mines Foundation officer; Eric Sullivan, Baker Hughes Inc. senior technical advisor, research & development; Heather Wilson, president, SD Mines; Scott Schmidt, Mines alumnus and Baker Hughes vice president, Drill Bits; Dr. Laurie Anderson, head of SD Mines Department of Geology & Geological Engineering; Rustom Mody, Baker Hughes vice president, Technical Excellence.

 New reservoir performance software donated to train students for petroleum industry careers will also support independent research projects of geology and geological engineering faculty and students.

The gift valued at $1.8 million from international oilfield services giant Baker Hughes Incorporated includes:

  • JewelSuite™ software for geologic modeling, reservoir engineering, 3D and 4D geomechanics, and wellbore stability
  • MFrac™ and MShale™ software packages for fracture modeling and design
  • Completion ArchiTEX™ (CTX) software for completions design.

The software will be used in geology and geological engineering classes, including drilling and production engineering, petroleum geology, the petroleum field camp and a new geomechanics course to help develop Mines students as future industry leaders. In recent years, 20 percent of Mines graduates have gone on to careers in the energy industry, and Baker Hughes has been the fifth-highest employer of Mines graduates for the past five years.

South Dakota School of Mines announced its Energy Resources Initiative three years ago to leverage the university’s expertise and research in rock properties, water resources and materials development, as well as its location in an energy-rich region of the country, within 300 miles of the Williston, Denver and Powder River basins. 

Last Edited 11/3/2016 03:21:20 PM [Comments (0)]

New Grant Funds Researched-Based Economic Development

Dr. Juergen Reichenbacher outside his clean room laboratory on campus.

A new state grant and matching commitments totaling $342,424 are bolstering research-based economic development at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

The funds, including a $200,000 grant from the Board of Regents, are being used to buy scientific instruments for existing projects. Among them are two research endeavors at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in nearby Lead. A third project expands on the university’s current success to commercialize a biomass liquefaction process.

Over the past decade, SD Mines has been supporting efforts at SURF to build a strong expertise and infrastructure toward synthesis of high-value organic products from biomass. 

Details on the three projects impacted by this new 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 Dr. Richard Schnee, 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 Dr. Juergen Reichenbacher, assistant professor in the Department of Physics.
  • Selective liquefaction of lignin and biomass wa...
Last Edited 2/3/2017 09:23:18 AM [Comments (0)]

Strieder Leads Sanford Lab CASPAR Team in Unlocking Secrets of the Universe

Mines physicist Dr. Frank Strieder is the principal investigator on the CASPAR experiment at the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

In a cavern buried beneath a mile of rock at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, a School of Mines team has spent the last year assembling an accelerator that could alter the scientific world with quiet bursts of energy.

The Compact Accelerator System Performing Astrophysical Research (CASPAR) experiment hopes to understand the origins of the universe by mimicking nuclear fusion in stars, studying the smallest scale possible to understand the largest scale possible.

Led by South Dakota Mines’ Dr. Frank Strieder of the Department of Physics, the team of scientists includes researchers from the University of Notre Dame and the Colorado School of Mines, as well as seven Mines students—three doctoral students and four undergraduates. Strieder designed the 45-foot-long accelerator and spent a year purchasing or machining parts and then assembling them.

Data collection is expected to begin within the next month.

The idea behind the experiment is to generate the type of energy inside a star, allowing scientists to understand how stars were formed and where they are in their lifespan, which could lead to other discoveries about life in the universe.

One kilometer away inside another cavity of the sprawling deep underground laboratory, Ray Davis observed for the first time 50 years ago that neutrinos came from the sun. Davis earned the Nobel Prize for his discovery.

“We know bas...

Last Edited 11/3/2016 03:09:08 PM [Comments (0)]

DeVeaux, Kunza, Murray Study E. coli in State Waters

Mines researchers have been testing toxin levels in South Dakota waterways in an effort to trace the extent and the origins.

The Big Sioux River and Rapid Creek winding through the heart of South Dakota’s two biggest cities transform into nature’s playground during the summer months, but they are far from pristine. They are among the nearly 70 percent of waterways on the state’s list of impaired bodies that do not meet water-quality standards. 

The Big Sioux has been on the list nearly two decades, but until last year no one had sampled it for genes that can make the often-harmless E. coli into a disease-causing pathogen, which sickens around 95,000 Americans annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Faculty researchers Dr. Lisa Kunza, an aquatic ecologist, and Dr. Linda DeVeaux, a microbiologist and geneticist, both from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Department of Chemistry & Applied Biological Sciences, are searching for answers that could ultimately improve public safety. Biomedical engineering doctoral student Kelsey Murray has been assisting.

Their initial findings last spring caused alarm among Sioux Falls city and county officials. Ninety-five percent of the samples pulled from Skunk Creek and the Big Sioux, both in Sioux Falls, contained a Shiga toxin gene that can turn E. coli into a dangerous strain. Intimin, a gene that helps E. coli colonies embed themselves in the human gut and thrive, was found in 100 percent of the samples.

In comparison, the prese...

Last Edited 11/3/2016 03:04:35 PM [Comments (0)]

Ahrenkiel Research Focuses on Nanoengineered Next-Generation Solar Cells

Dr. Phil Ahrenkiel in one of his campus laboratories.

Dr. Phil Ahrenkiel of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology’s Nanoscience and Nanoengineering Program is researching next-generation solar cells thanks to a $179,000 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant. 

Ahrenkiel is developing a novel approach for using earth-abundant and widely available metal aluminum to improve commercializable photovoltaic solar cells. The new cells could help lower the cost of renewable energy. 

These emerging nanoengineering approaches could produce enhanced efficiencies and reduced manufacturing costs and lead to increased production of next-generation solar cells in the United States.  

Ahrenkiel’s goal is to convert sunlight into electricity by depositing thin layers of solar cells onto inexpensive aluminum substrates. 

If the research is successful, it will lead to the fabrication of solar cells on thin, flexible, and lightweight aluminum ribbons or sheets, which could be transferred to glass and integrated with residential or commercial buildings. This technology would be adaptable to a roll-to-roll semiconductor deposition process for mass production of inexpensive solar cells. 

The research will be performed using existing device-processing, electron-microscopy, and optoelectronic-characterization capabilities available at South Dakota Mines, which is partnering with Rochester Institute of Technology and Lakewood Semiconductors on this project ...

Last Edited 11/3/2016 02:59:11 PM [Comments (0)]

Mines Developing New Power System for Space Missions with $750,000 NASA Award

Dr. Venkataramana Gadhamshetty is interviewed by local media after the announcement of a $750,000 NASA award to develop a new power system for long-term space missions.

The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has been awarded $750,000 to develop an extreme biological system to turn solid waste into a power source for long-term space missions.

The NASA EPSCoR award builds upon earlier waste conversion concepts developed through Dr. Venkataramana Gadhamshetty’s research. Earlier this year, Gadhamshetty, of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, and his research team announced it had converted discarded tomatoes into electricity (see below). 

There is a critical need for a similar product for NASA, where long-term, manned space missions are challenged by waste-treatment and power requirements. During space missions, each crew member typically generates 3.6 pounds of solid waste from biodegradable (such as food) and non-biodegradable (such as plastic) sources daily. 

This voluminous waste is a burden to space missions, as it increases fuel consumption and may create nuisance and health concerns due to the pathogens. 

The South Dakota Mines approach involves unique microorganisms isolated from the deep levels of the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead as test subjects to develop an advanced biological module that uses electrochemistry principles.

The SURF extremophiles (see below) are known to survive harsh environments typical to extraterrestrial space, where it is seemingly uninhabitable. Their biology provides a ...

Last Edited 11/2/2016 03:29:54 PM [Comments (0)]

Sani’s Study of Extremophiles Welcomes International Collaborators, Gains Recognition

Dr. Rajesh Sani and his students have been collecting samples from the deep biosphere of the Sanford Underground Research Facility nearly a mile below ground.

Dr. Rajesh Sani’s research on how microorganisms can survive in extreme environments could lead to the conversion of solid wastes into bioenergy and the development of efficient, cost-effective green technologies.

In recent months his ongoing efforts have welcomed international collaborators from India and have been highlighted in SCI’s international Chemistry & Industry (C&I) Magazine.

The School of Mines and Sani, of the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering, are currently hosting researchers from India for a year-long collaborative study on extremophiles such as those found a mile below the earth’s surface at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF). The Sanford Lab in nearby Lead is located in the former Homestake Gold Mine and has 370 miles of tunnels. Of those tunnels, just 12 miles are maintained to house world-class laboratories where international dark matter and neutrino experiments are being conducted.

Over the past decade Sani’s group has been looking for thermophiles that can naturally degrade and ferment cellulose and xylan, a polysaccharide found in plant cell walls.

The extremophiles isolated from SURF by Sani’s group will also be used as test subjects in a new NASA study.

Last Edited 11/3/2016 02:50:26 PM [Comments (0)]

Brickey Awarded $300,000 Grant to Help Rebuild US Mining Faculty through Research

Dr. Andrea Brickey has been awarded $300,000 to help rebuild America’s dwindling number of mining engineering faculty through research endeavors.

Dr. Andrea Brickey of the Department of Mining & Engineering Management has been awarded the $300,000 2016 Freeport-McMoRan Career Development Grant, which focuses on rebuilding the faculty pipeline in U.S. mining schools through research.

The award is worth $100,000 per year for three years and will primarily fund two graduate students to assist in her research. Brickey is developing a holistic mine schedule by incorporating additional aspects of the mine’s operation, such as ventilation. The research project,“Production Schedule Optimization for Underground Mining,” addresses processes, efficiencies and safety of mining projects. 

Additionally, the award will fund several undergraduate students and pay for travel for professional developmentopportunities, all of which is intended to support tenure and promotion.

Brickey earned her bachelor’s degree from South Dakota Mines in 1999 and worked for 15 years before returning to academia, earning her doctorate from Colorado School of Mines and then joining the SD Mines faculty ranks last fall. Her industry experience has focused primarily on mining operations and consulting projects in Africa and North and South America, mining copper, gold, silver, nickel, phosphate and coal.

The grant is part of the Academic Career Development initiative of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration Inc. (SME) and the SME Foundation to bo...

Last Edited 11/16/2016 02:02:09 PM [Comments (0)]

Turning Tomatoes Into Electricity

Dr. Venkata Gadhamshetty discusses research to turn tomato waste into energy resource.

When a South Dakota Mines research team announced in March that it had successfully generated power with tomato waste, the world and international media elite immediately took notice. After all, it’s not every day that you hear about fruit being converted into electricity.

The research group led by Dr. Venkata Gadhamshetty, Mines graduate students and a researcher each from Princeton University and Florida Gulf Coast University announced findings at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Diego

Within hours, Dr. Gadhamshetty was interviewing with the BBC, and the news was written about by CNN, Newsweek, MSN, Yahoo news and the Times of India (to name a few), highlighting just one example of the important, world-changing research being conducted at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City.

The pilot project involves a biological-based fuel cell that uses tomato waste from harvests, grocery store shelves and production plants such as ketchup factories. The inherent characteristics of the decomposing leftovers make it a perfect fuel source for enhancing electrochemical reactions, Dr. Gadhamshetty says.

Researchers designed and built a new electrochemical device to test and extract electrons from the defective tomatoes. The power output from their mini reactor is small: 10 milligrams of tomato waste resulted in 0.3 watts of electr...

Last Edited 11/3/2016 02:40:14 PM [Comments (0)]