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S.D. School of Mines & Technology
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Rapid City, SD  57701

(605) 394-2493

Research@Mines Archive:
May, 2018

Engineering End to Back Pain

Marit Johnson, a PhD candidate at SD Mines, is focusing her research on intervertebral discs in the lower back.

There is a good chance you are sitting down right now. It’s possible you’ve been sitting all day, or maybe you’ve even been sitting every day for the last few decades.

“There is a trend in the 21st century that 80 percent of our jobs require sitting, and it’s even more so when you include leisure time,” says Marit Johnson (CE 96), a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering at SD Mines.

You may guess that spending all this time in a chair is not so good for your health. In fact, research is now showing prolonged sitting may contribute to lower back pain. “Eighty percent of us will experience back pain in our lifetime,” says Johnson. "If your job requires long hours in a chair, back pain can be a real issue."

Johnson’s research is focused on the intervertebral discs of the lower back. These discs are in between the vertebrae, or bones, of the spine, and their softer tissue provides cushion and flexibility. They are key components of a healthy and functional spine.

Research shows that intervertebral discs need to exchange fluid to maintain a healthy environment, similar to how our bodies need breathing to exchange carbon dioxide with oxygen for our survival. “Typically, when we wake up in the morning we’re taller,” says Johnson. At night when we sleep the discs pull in fluid and they expand. As the day goes on,...

Last Edited 5/25/2018 11:36:38 AM [Comments (0)]

Ballooning in the Shadow of the Moon

This image, courtesy of the South Dakota Solar Eclipse Balloon Team, shows the moon's shadow crossing the Nebraska Panhandle during the Great American Eclipse of 2017.

At 10:35 a.m. on August 21, 2017, in a field in front of a small Nebraska Panhandle farmhouse, a team consisting of SD Mines students, Black Hills area high school students, teachers and community members, meticulously followed a set of steps they had practiced many times before. Payloads were carefully secured, batteries checked, and scientific instruments turned on and tested. Soon, helium was coursing through a hose from tanks in the back of a pickup truck into an eight-foot-tall balloon laid out on the soft grass.

Above the desolate cornfields and sandhills of northwestern Nebraska the moon was starting its path across the sun–the arc of its shadow racing across the country toward this team. The Great American Eclipse was underway.

The South Dakota Solar Eclipse Balloon Team had been working for two years to prepare for this one sliver in time. Their goal—to launch this balloon at the exact moment to loft the payload to an altitude of about 100,000 feet, under the moon’s shadow, during two minutes of totality. On board were video cameras, a radiation detector, GPS, and other scientific experiments. This project aimed to capture images and data from the eclipse. The radiation detector would help measure the flux of cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere as the moon obscured the sun. The video cameras would capture the circle of the moon’s shadow on the earth. The team designed and built some of ...

Last Edited 5/17/2018 03:53:34 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines Helps Keep Two of the World’s Most Sensitive Dark Matter Experiments Clean

Radon reduction researchers pictured with the machine they designed are (from left to right) SD Mines physics graduate student Joseph Street, Richard Schnee, Ph.D., along with lab technicians David Molash and Christine Hjelmfelt.

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is helping to ensure highly sensitive underground dark matter experiments are free of radon that could contaminate the results. SD Mines researchers are building a radon mitigation system at SNOLAB in Canada and at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead, S.D.

The team, led by Richard Schnee, Ph.D., professor and head of the physics department at SD Mines, is building machines that filter out radon particles to produce ultra-pure air needed for the SuperCDMS experiment in SNOLAB and for the LZ (LUX-ZEPLIN) experiment in SURF.  The team is also helping ensure the parts used to build the experiments are relatively free of radon.

“Our detectors need very low levels of radon,” Schnee says. While the radon levels at the 4850 Level at SURF are safe for humans, they are too high for sensitive experiments like LZ, which go deep underground to escape cosmic radiation, Schnee explains. “We will take regular air from the facility and the systems will reduce the levels by 1,000 times or more.”

The system in SURF will be installed in the...

Last Edited 5/17/2018 03:54:35 PM [Comments (0)]