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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
Economic Development

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 11/18/2020 02:56:02 PM [Comments (0)]

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)]

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)]

Nanopareil: Where Tiny Fibers Reap Huge Rewards

Dr. Todd Menkhaus, a professor of biological and chemical engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, is one of the researchers to develop the Nanopareil technology. Nanopareil produces a material used to filter out impurities in such industries as pharmaceuticals, reducing costs and speeding up the process significantly.

The technology at the heart of Nanopareil revolves around nanofibers a thousand times smaller than a human hair, but its potential impact on the pharmaceutical industry could be massive.

“The pharmaceutical industry really needs this technology,” says Todd Menkhaus, PhD, a professor of biological and chemical engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and one of the researchers to develop the Nanopareil technology. “We developed this technology specifically to lower the costs of purifying lifesaving vaccines and medications so that they would be more accessible and more economical around the globe.”

Nanopareil LLC got its start on the SD Mines campus in 2008 when Menkhaus and Hao Fong, PhD, a professor in chemistry, biology, and health sciences, began collaborating on research into nanofibers and separations. They quickly found some pretty exciting results. By spraying or “electro spinning” polymer nanofibers into multiple layers, Fong and Menkhaus created sheets of a filter or sponge-like material. In its initial state, the material feels almost spongy to the touch. After final preparation, however, the sheet material feels and looks much like simple white paper.  

Fong and Menkhaus discovered that when the material is used as a filter, it works as a sponge and collects or traps the targeted materials while allowing the inactive ingredients to flow through. Used in a pharmaceutical setting, ...

Last Edited 12/3/2019 09:37:21 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines Researchers Pioneer New Methods to Turn Biorefinery Waste into Valuable Products

Vinod Amar, Ph.D., one of the research scientists working on the project is shown here in his lab.

Shende Research Team 2A research team at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is beginning work on pilot scale testing of new methods that turn biorefinery waste into valuable products. The waste biomass or byproducts generated by ethanol plants and other biorefineries, such as corn stover, are normally thrown away—but finding cost-effective means of using this waste to make new products will generate extra revenue for the facilities, help lower fuel costs, reduce carbon emissions, and ultimately help farmers.

“This is one more way SD Mines is pioneering research that helps the environment while increasing efficiency and profit margins for our industry partners.  This is the kind of work that can have a positive impact on the economy of South Dakota,” says SD Mines Vice President of Research Ralph Davis, Ph.D.

Rajesh Shende, Ph.D., professor in the chemical and biological engineering department at SD Mines, is leading the research. This work began in Shende’s lab with a $2.16 million grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Offi...

Last Edited 11/26/2019 10:30:38 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)]

SD Mines Team Pushes to Put CubeSat Swarm in Space

This image shows what a swarm of CubeSats orbiting Earth might look like. Credit NASA.

Satellites are often thought of as huge complicated devices that are deployed on the tops of rockets or in space shuttle payloads. They hold massive telescopes, sophisticated weather monitoring devices or global positioning system components.  The price tag for large satellites is often measured in billions, not millions. 

CubeSats are different. They’re smaller - think volleyball, not Volkswagen - and they’re cheaper.  NASA describes a CubeSat as a “low-cost pathway to conduct scientific investigations and technology demonstrations in space, thus enabling students, teachers, and faculty to obtain hands-on flight hardware development experience.”  The cost of these nanosatellites is small enough to fit into many school budgets. CubeSats are built to investigate areas of scientific interest such as the earth’s atmosphere, space weather, in-space propulsion, radiation testing, and communication, to name a few. Satellites are selected based on their investigations and how they align with NASA’s strategic plan.

One area of CubeSat research at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is to expand from one small satellite to a swarm of small satellites working together. This has the potential to multiply the impact and effectiveness of a single CubeSat.

“Sometimes you want t...

Last Edited 9/3/2019 04:50:28 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines Professor Receives Grant to Explore Creation of Solid-State Battery Research Center

Research scientist Abu Md Numan-Al-Mobin, Ph.D., is part of the team at SD Mines working to bring solid-state batteries to reality.

In 2016, half a million hoverboards were recalled after lithium ion batteries in some of the popular scooters burst into flames.

That same year, Samsung recalled its Galaxy Note 7 when the same type of batteries in some of those devices exploded and burned. The recall cost Samsung more than $10 billion.

With the U.S. lithium-ion battery market expected to reach $90 billion by 2025, Alevtina Smirnova, PhD, sees great value in fixing this battery problem.

“The reality is, conventional lithium-ion batteries are not safe or reliable,” says Smirnova, an associate professor of chemistry and applied biological sciences, and electrical and computer engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

Conventional lithium-ion batteries contain flammable liquid that can become combustible when heated. Heating usually occurs due to a short circuit inside the battery. The end result in these cases is often fire or explosion. To make matters worse, the electrolyte inside lithium-ion batteries is mixed with a compound that burns the skin. In 2017, a young woman on an overseas flight received burns on her face when the batteries inside her headphones exploded.

Smirnova plans to...

Last Edited 8/1/2019 04:38:39 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)]

Composite Bridge Winners Use Lightweight, Strong, Inexpensive Material Developed at SD Mines

Krishnan Veluswamy, a Ph.D. student in the Materials Engineering and Science Program at SD Mines, holding the bridge his team built and his 2018 SAMPE International University Leadership Experience Award.

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology students took home second place in the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE) 2018 Student Bridge Contest, by designing a bridge weighing just 12.5 ounces that can carry a 2,000-pound load.

The competition, held in Long Beach, Calif., pitted SD Mines researchers against 70 teams from 30 universities from around the world. Teams were tasked to design, build and test a 24-inch-long structural composite bridge using fiber reinforced plastics and high-performance materials. The annual event challenges teams to make bridges that carry a specified load while also being as lightweight as possible. The Mines bridge placed second in the inaugural year of the sandwich beam category at SAMPE’s bridge contest.

“The SAMPE bridge competition is a fantastic opportunity for students to develop some hands-on composite fabrication skills and to see how the process side of composites engineering truly impacts their final performance,” says Eric Schmid, SD Mines bridge team member and SAMPE North America Young Professionals committee chair. “SAMPE provides an excellent platform for students to demonstrate their capabilities, and the chance to attend the SAMPE conference and bridge competition really gives students a great view of how important compo...

Last Edited 8/14/2018 04:35:41 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines Energy Resources Initiative Builds Momentum as US Production Peaks

Nine SD Mines students join Energy Resources Initiative director Dan Soeder on a hydraulic fracturing operation during a visit to the Bakken oilfields of North Dakota. The trip was funded by Halliburton.

One of the primary goals of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology’s Energy Resources Initiative (ERI) is to conduct research that improves the efficiency and reduces the environmental risks of producing fossil fuels while providing energy security for America.

While the country’s oil and gas industry has been in a down cycle, recent data shows US production is reaching a peak not seen since the 1970s due to increased development of shale oil and gas.  Dan Soeder, the new ERI director, is an industry expert on development of shale resources and reserves. Soeder is less than a year into his new position at SD Mines. He has spent this time quietly putting down roots to firmly establish the program. Soeder has been developing research projects, building relationships with industry and pursuing funding. The aim is for SD Mines to grow as a valuable industry resource, both in supplying future engineers for this sector and in providing solutions for efficient and safe oil and gas production.

Soeder left the U.S. Department of Energy last spring to become Mines’ first ERI director, bringing with him 30 years of experience as a hydrologist and a geologist, with a particular focus on shale gas, water resources, and sequestration of carbon dioxid...

Last Edited 6/28/2018 07:06:39 PM [Comments (0)]

Killing Anthrax

Lori Groven, PhD, an assistant professor in the chemical and biological engineering department at SD Mines, is pioneering new ways to fight biological weapons.

In the weeks following the September 11th attacks, a series of letters containing anthrax spores arrived at media outlets and the offices of US Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. The acts of bioterrorism gripped the nation in confusion, anger, and fear. Scores were hospitalized and five people died. It was a senseless tragedy. But, it could have been much worse.

“Ten grams of anthrax spores could wipe out all of Washington, DC, and the surrounding area,” says Lori Groven, (BS ChE, MS ChE, PhD Nanoscience and Nanoengineering). “Biological weapons are scary for everybody, because it takes so little to do so much damage,” she adds. The minimum lethal dose for anthrax is estimated to be 5-10,000 spores, and one gram of anthrax contains well over a trillion spores. 

Groven is a research scientist and assistant professor in the chemical and biological engineering department at Mines. She and her team are part way through a five-year half-million-dollar grant from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The research has led to new materials and methods for combating bioterrorism.

One challenge Groven and her team have faced is the instability of the chemicals currently used to neutralize biological weapons. These compounds, or biocides, are made up mostly of a fuel and oxidizer (iodate) powder. They have a very short shelf life. “This stuff doesn’t age very well," says Groven. “If you put it out on the counter,...

Last Edited 4/26/2018 07:40:45 PM [Comments (0)]

$540,000 NSF Grant Boosts 6-12th Grade STEM Teaching Efficacy

Teachers at Mines this summer taking part in the SD-RET program.

Teachers in South Dakota now have the chance to work side-by-side with faculty at SD Mines and bring what they learn back to the classroom.

The Sustainable Development-Research Experience for Teachers (SD-RET) program helps integrate new engineering and science technologies into 6-12th grade classrooms in rural America. The program is thanks to a $543,466 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). It gives teachers new tools and resources to improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum aligned with state standards. The grant increases collaboration between South Dakota teachers, industry partners and Mines faculty..

The SD-RET program helps integrate new engineering and science technologies into 6-12th grade classrooms in rural America. The program is sponsored by a $543,466 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). It gives teachers new tools and resources to improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum aligned with state standards. The grant increases collaboration between South Dakota teachers, industry partners and Mines faculty.

“STEM education and research are a significant part of our mission and strategy, and therefore this NSF grant will have a significant impact on future education of South Dakota 6-12th grade students in scienc...

Last Edited 7/18/2017 08:34:48 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 04:23:18 PM [Comments (0)]