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Research Affairs

South Dakota Mines
501 E. St. Joseph Street
Suite 102, O'Harra Building
Rapid City, SD  57701

(605) 394-2493

Research@Mines - by Subject
Civil and Environmental Engineering

South Dakota Mines Constructs Living Laboratory on Campus

Andrew Ferris, Mines civil and environmental engineering graduate student, unrolls hay cover being placed on one of the test plots in the living laboratory during construction in the Spring of 2021.

South Dakota Mines is home to a new living laboratory that is located on a hill above the main campus. This long-term study will help students and the community understand how vegetation and ground cover impacts soil erosion, water quality, ecosystems and our shared natural resources.

The study area is a steep exposure of the Belle Fourche Shale rock formation that had been a problem area for erosion and contained little-to-no vegetation. The living laboratory includes over 20 small plots in a grid that have different erosion control treatments, ranging from engineered products to low-tech solutions such as hay cover or mulch. Each treatment option was designed and built by undergraduate student researchers with the assistance of faculty and instructors. The study is funded by the West Dakota Water Development District (WDWDD). The elected board is one of seven water development districts in the state, organized for the purpose of promoting conservation, development and management of resources.

Each year, students in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering will collect data on the treatments laid out in the living laboratory. Over the coming years, the data collected by students wi...

Last Edited 7/21/2021 02:00:48 PM [Comments (0)]

South Dakota Mines EMES Facility Expands to Include Array of Instruments with Environmental Applications

Dr. Scott Beeler uses a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GC-MS) in the Engineering and Mining Experiment Station (EMES) at South Dakota Mines. The GC-MS is used to identify and quantify organic compounds with applications in a wide range of fields such as environmental monitoring, medicine, and oil and gas.

The Engineering and Mining Experiment Station (EMES) at South Dakota Mines has begun overseeing the operation and maintenance of instrumentation within the Shimadzu Environmental Research Laboratory (SERL).

The EMES was founded on the Mines campus in 1903 with a mission to serve mining industry research. Today the mission has expanded to include a much broader range of academic and industry needs with a wide array of scientific equipment that is utilized by industry professionals and university researchers across the region. The EMES has seen equipment investments by the South Dakota Board of Regents and the National Science Foundation totaling more than $2.8 million since 2011. The EMES website lists the range of scientific equipment available for academic research and industry use including the Shimadzu instrumentation.

The SERL was established in 2015 in partnership with Shimadzu Scientific Instruments by Lisa Kunza. Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Chemistry Biology and Health Sciences at Mines. The SERL is a multidisciplinary research facility that contains a suite of state-of-the-art instrumentation with a focus on environmental applications. SERL instruments enable the chemi...

Last Edited 1/6/2021 03:48:20 PM [Comments (0)]

South Dakota Mines Students Help Create a Living Laboratory at Eco Prayer Park

The Trinity Eco Prayer Park in downtown Rapid City is going through some renovations to create a living laboratory for hands-on learning and research.

The West Dakota Water Development District and a group of Rapid City area businesses are funding upgrades recommended by a team of South Dakota Mines students at the Trinity Eco Prayer Park in downtown Rapid City. The upgrades will increase the water flow capacity and provide easier maintenance at the park. This will help maintain the original intent of the park, which is to slow, spread, infiltrate, and naturally filter the stormwater that runs off part of downtown before it enters Rapid Creek. Most importantly, the project also creates opportunity for a living laboratory where future students can study urban runoff, associated water quality issues, and sustainable stormwater management practices. 

Urban runoff is a major contributor to pollution in waterways around the world. In general, precipitation falls onto a rooftop, runs across a parking lot and into a curb and gutter where it drops into a storm sewer making its way to a local water body. During this process the water never comes into contact with soil, which is our natural filter. Hence, the runoff is untreated. To deal with this problem, many cities have installed natural treatment systems, known as green infrastructure or low impact development practices. This allows runoff that is shed by city streets, parking lots and sidewalks t...

Last Edited 12/8/2020 03:22:08 PM [Comments (0)]

Hyperloop - Mines Alumnus on the Cutting-Edge of Transportation

“Flying 700 miles per hour through a tube using magnets and sunlight isn’t a dream.”

The baritone narrator in a video describing the proposed Great Lakes Hyperloop makes the case that a twenty-eight minute commute over the 343 miles that separate Cleveland from Chicago is a near-term reality.

Chuck Michael-2For Chuck Michael (CE 77), hyperloop is the future of transportation. “This is a game-changing technology with a huge public benefit,” he says. “You could work in downtown Chicago and live in Cleveland and get to work faster than sitting on the freeway from the Chicago suburbs.”

The hyperloop concept involves a magnetically levitated capsule that is propelled through a vacuum tunnel at velocities approaching the speed of sound using renewable wind and solar energy. Michael is the head of US feasibility studies and regulatory advisor for the company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies based in Los Angeles. “We use a proprietary passive magnetic levitation system, developed at Lawrence Livermore National Lab,” Michael says. A small forward motion on the permanent magnetic array creates a field that aids both propulsion and levitation.

“We can levitate twenty tons at walking speed,” Michael says. A "re...

Last Edited 2/3/2020 09:18:48 PM [Comments (0)]

2D Materials, Biofilm and Microbial Research at SD Mines Brings in $32 Million in National Science Foundation Grants

Govind Chilkoor, Ph.D., an SD Mines research scientist, examines a biofilm on a steel sample following its exposure to corrosive bacteria. Dr. Chilkoor is working to develop new ultrathin two-dimensional (2D) coatings that resist microbial corrosion. His research is one component of a newly announced $20 million NSF grant titled “Building on the 2020 Vision: Expanding Research, Education and Innovation in South Dakota.”

In the past three years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded  $32 million in funding for research led by faculty at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology that expands human understanding of the microbial world. Much of the research focuses on the environment microbes occupy when they attach to surfaces and create what is commonly known as a biofilm.

The broad range of studies on microbes and biofilms, funded by these grants, has a wide potential for applications across many sectors of industry and society including energy generation, new medicines, wastewater purification, agriculture, corrosion resistance, new materials and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The research effort of the newly announced $20 million NSF grant titled “Building on the 2020 Vision: Expanding Research, Education and Innovation in South Dakota” will be led by researchers at SD Mines, SDSU and USD. The funding was awarded through the South Dakota Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (SD EPSCoR) and the South Dakota Board of Regents. The state of South Dakota is providing $4 million in matching funds for the grant. The Governor’s office of Economic Development and Board of Regents are providing $3 million and there is a ...

Last Edited 1/8/2020 09:08:07 PM [Comments (0)]

Termite Mounds Hide Secrets to Sustainable Buildings of the Future

Andrea Surovek, Ph.D., a research scientist from SD Mines’ Department of Mechanical Engineering, standing next to a termite mound in Namibia.

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has been awarded $475,000 from the National Science Foundation to study how termites construct mounds with the idea that humans might one day adapt the energy-efficient homebuilding techniques of the insects. The award is a follow-up to a previous grant by NSF of $300,000.

Mines faculty researchers spent time in the African country of Namibia to study the shape and function of termite mounds. The mounds are resilient and naturally energy efficient. Their intricate interior designs provide ventilation and temperature regulation throughout what can easily be a 15-foot-tall home for a single colony of 2 million termites. 

“An understanding of the natural processes involved in termite mound construction and function can be adapted to inform engineering applications related to the construction of man-made structures that require zero or minimal energy inputs,” said the NSF award letter.

Co-principal investigator Andrea Surovek, Ph.D., a research scientist from SD Mines’ Department of Mechanical Engineering, has lead research that examined hundreds of slices of a termite mound and has developed three-dimensional models of numerous mounds using ...

Last Edited 10/30/2018 09:21:47 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines Researchers Explore Hydraulic Fracturing to Expand Geothermal Energy

Liangping Li, Ph.D., (left) and Bill Roggenthen, Ph.D., (right) shown here in the EGS Collab at the 4850 level of the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

The use of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking as it’s commonly called in the press) has been a topic of contention in the oil and gas industry. However, researchers believe fracking can also be used at depth in hard rocks that contain no oil or gas to improve geothermal energy production. The process could enhance the use of the earth’s own heat as a source of clean energy.

Liangping Li, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, has received an award from National Science Foundation (NSF) for his research entitled “Inverse Methods of Hydraulic Fracturing for Enhanced Geothermal Systems in a Deep Mine.” Li is working alongside projects already underway at the Sanford Research Facility (SURF) including kISMET (permeability (k) and Induced Seismicity Management for Energy Technologies) and the Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) project. Hydraulic fracturing research at SURF uses no chemicals, so unlike some fossil fuel fracking operations, the fracking fluid used in these ...

Last Edited 11/5/2018 04:28:37 PM [Comments (0)]

Powerful Bugs: Harnessing the Electric Eels of the Microbial World

“We’re studying the electric eels of the microbial world,” says Navanietha Krishnaraj, Ph.D., a research scientist in the Chemical and Biological Engineering department at SD Mines. - Photo Credit NOAA

Researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology are studying ways to harness electricity generated by a unique set of microbes. 

“We’re studying the electric eels of the microbial world,” says Navanietha Krishnaraj, Ph.D., a research scientist in the Chemical and Biological Engineering department at SD Mines.

Researchers, such as Venkata Gadhamshetty, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at SD Mines, and his team including Namita Shrestha, Ph.D., are working on maximizing the efficiency of what’s known as bioelectrochemical systems. By understanding the right combination of microbes and materials it’s possible to harness clean energy for widespread use in various applications.

Possible outcomes of this research include new ways to generate electricity and treat solid waste during NASA space missions, the ability for a wastewater treatment plants to help generate electricity while turning effluent into clean water, a new way to clean saline wastewater generated in oil drilling operations, and better ways to turn food waste, like tomatoes and corn stover into elec...

Last Edited 8/30/2018 07:53:43 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines Researchers Trace Pollution from Historic Northern Hills Mine Tailings Hundreds of Miles Downstream

Students taking part in research on this project include Bryce Pfiefle, the lead author of this paper, who graduated from SD Mines with a master’s degree in geological engineering.

The Black Hills of South Dakota was once home to the largest underground gold mine in North America – the Homestake Mine. Following its closure in 2002, the mine was turned into the Sanford Underground Research Facility. But, newly published research shows evidence of the past mining activities can still be found hundreds of miles downstream.

The history of gold mining in the northern Black Hills dates back about 130 years. During the first to middle part of the 20th century, about 100-million tons of mine tailings went down Whitewood Creek and into the Belle Fourche, Cheyenne and Missouri rivers. Research by a group of scientists, including James Stone, Ph.D., a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, along with others at the USGS Dakota Water Science Center show elevated levels of arsenic and other contaminants in these historic mine tailings.  

“The concentrations in the pore waters and sediments were quite high for arsenic in some sampling sites,” says Stone. 

In the 1980s, mine tailings along Whitewood Creek, found to contain arsenic, mercury and other pollutants, became an Read Full Article

Last Edited 7/20/2018 07:54:58 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines Researchers Pioneer New Testing Method That Identifies Pathogenic Potential in South Dakota Waterways

The project included over 1000 DNA extractions from bacteria in water samples taken out of Rapid Creek and the Big Sioux River over a two-year period.

Researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have completed a groundbreaking study on harmful bacteria found in two important South Dakota waterways. The research, undertaken by Ph.D. candidate Kelsey Murray, found genes related to harmful E. coli in parts of the Big Sioux River and Rapid Creek.  

Public health officials often test streams and rivers for fecal coliform bacteria or E. coli, as this group of bacteria can be an indicator of pollution from animal or human waste. But, not all forms of E. coli are dangerous to humans; in-fact most are harmless. This study pioneered new testing methods that more accurately assess the public health risk from fecal contaminated waters by singling out and testing for genes associated with harmful forms of E. coli, including Shiga-toxigenic E. coli (STEC). 

Murray’s research, performed under Linda DeVeaux, Ph.D., and Lisa Kunza, Ph.D., is titled “Path-STREAM: Development and Implementation of a Novel Method for Determining Potential Risk from Pathogenic Bacteria in Surface Water Environments” Path-STREAM stands for Pathogenicity Profiling: Shiga Toxins and Related E. coli Attributes identification Method.

The project included over 1000 DNA extractions from bacteria in water samples taken out of Rapid Creek and the Big Sioux River over a two-year period. The effort built a method to identify the pathogenic genes associated with STEC and other...

Last Edited 9/11/2020 01:52:10 PM [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 04:43:03 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 08:40:14 PM [Comments (0)]