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Research@Mines Archive:
June, 2017

SD Mines Professor Helps Invent New Tool to Better Prevent and Fight Wildfire

The 2016 Storm Hill Fire burning near Mitchell Lake in the Black Hills. Photo by Incident Commander Rob Lehmann. Thanks to Great Plains Fire Information.

State Fire Meteorologist, Darren Clabo, Ph.D., at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is helping create the Fire Risk Estimation tool (FiRE). The tool gives land managers and firefighting officials a more detailed look at fire potential across the Missouri River basin.

Smokey Bear signs that indicate overall fire danger are common along roadways in the western United States. The FiRE tool uses satellite and metrological data to create a much more detailed understanding of fire danger. The tool can give firefighters a critical edge. Fire managers say the “initial attack” phase during the first few hours of any of any wildfire is the most important time to gain control. When officials know the areas where fire danger is increasing ahead of time they can position resources and better prepare to quickly respond to any small fires before they grow into large incidences.   

“We can narrow this onto a 10-kiliometer grid scale, says Clabo. Previous tools only assessed fire danger on a wider scale, such as across national forest districts or across a county. “If the western two thirds of Pennington County is wet because they’ve gotten a series of thunderstorms, but some of the eastern areas are dry, we will know where a fire is more likely to start and spread.” Clabo adds.

Clab...

Last Edited 6/30/2017 12:49:24 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines Researchers Hope to Sanford Lab Extremophiles to Create Low-Cost Renewable and Biodegradable Polymers

Courtney Carlson, a senior majoring in Chemical Engineering at SD Mines (right) and researcher Navanietha Krishnaraj Rathinam, Ph.D., (left) work in the Chemical and Biological Engineering and Chemistry (CBEC) building at SD Mines. Carlson and Krishnaraj Rathinam are using benchtop reactors in the lab to perform CNAM-Bio research that seeks to optimize and scale-up the manufacturing of biopolymers from lignocellulosic biomass using extremophiles. The center is a scanning electron microscope image of the bacteria the research team are studying.

A team of researchers with the Composite and Nanocomposite Advanced Manufacturing – Biomaterials Center (CNAM), led by David Salem, Ph.D., at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology are using microbes that were discovered deep underground in the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in an attempt to make low-cost plastics that are renewable and biodegradable.

“Most commercial polymers, or plastics are petroleum based which is a non-renewable resource,” says Salem. The team is working to find ways to mass manufacture low-cost plant based plastics and composites. “A problem with bio-based polymers is they are expensive, and one goal of this center is to use genetically engineered microbes to help reduce the cost of manufacturing these kinds of plastics,” says Salem. “Another goal is to engineer the properties of the biopolymers and biocomposites to serve a wide range of commercial applications.”

There is a huge potential for new green-based manufacturing jobs in the area if the center succeeds in developing mass manufacturing techniques for turning plants into low-cost bio-based polymers.

“The top ten petroleum based polymers make up about a $500-billion global market,” says Salem. “These biopolymers potentially can cover the whole range of properties of those.”

A group, led by Rajesh Sani, Ph.D., from SD Mines’ Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering, have isolated th...

Last Edited 6/20/2017 10:39:43 AM [Comments (0)]

$1.5 Million NSF Grant Brings Native Students into STEM Fields at Three South Dakota Schools

South Dakota School of Mines student Bo Paulsen holds the stake, while Oglala Lakota College student Wilson King wields the sledge hammer under the supervision of OLC instructor Lyle Wilson. In the background are Mines students Lyndsey Penfield and Logan Gayton. They are part of a team of students who designed and built a greenhouse in Kyle, which was part of effort to increase local food production on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Three schools in South Dakota are teaming up in a continued effort to encourage more Native American students to enter the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Oglala Lakota College, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and the South Dakota State University were each awarded $495,000 grants from the National Science Foundation to evaluate the ongoing program and move the effort forward. The project, OLC, SDSU and SD Mines Pre-Engineering Education Collaborative (OSSPEEC), includes faculty, students, scientists and engineers working to solve real-world problems on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The collaborative includes work to help Native students at OLC enter pre-engineering programs and then finish their degrees at South Dakota School of Mines or South Dakota State. The project also provides professional development for college educators to help boost the number of Lakota students who enter pre-engineering classes.

Jason Tinant is the OSSPEEC principal investigator at Oglala Lakota College where he is also an environmental science instructor. “Engineering is the application of science for the betterment of the community,” says Tinant. “This kind of engineering education can increase tribal sovereignty over water, food and language. This project embodies the Lakota ideals of “wolakociypai,” (learning the ways of the Lakota for the community) and “tiospaye” (the making of new relations),” he adds.  

T...
Last Edited 6/8/2017 10:43:03 AM [Comments (0)]