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S.D. School of Mines & Technology
501 E. St. Joseph Street
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Rapid City, SD  57701

(605) 394-2493

Research@Mines - by Subject
Water Research

The Gas Cube – Turning Remote Base Waste Into Energy

The Gas Cube is a compact reactor that can turn waste into methane gas.

Cows, as many people know, have four stomachs. Cows also generate lots of methane.  So, if your goal is to describe a machine that turns food waste and cardboard into methane gas, the bovine digestive system is an analogy that makes some sense.  

“Our reactor is some ways a two-stomach cow,” says Jorge Gonzalez-Estrella, a post-doctoral research associate in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department at Mines.

Gonzalez-Estrella is one of the researchers working on the Gas Cube project.  The semi-trailer-sized reactor is much larger than a cow, but it’s still portable. It’s one of the projects in development at Mines aimed at turning a range of remote base waste into energy. This is all thanks to a $4.8 million grant from the United States Air Force, $1.2 million of which funds the Gas Cube.  A remote Air Force Base can produce lots of waste. The Air Force seeks to save waste handling and fuel costs at mission-based remote bases. This is a challenge that the Gas Cube is designed to overcome. 

How does it work?  Back to the cow analogy. At the Gas Cube’s input, or mouth, a shredder grinds up the solid cardboard or food waste and deposits it in chamber number one. This is sort of like a cow chewing and swallowing its food. Then in that first chamber, or stomach number one, hydrolytic microorganisms break down the mix of food waste and cardboard into sugars, and fermenting microbes then break up those su...

Last Edited 4/26/2018 01:36:39 PM [Comments (0)]

Green Tech & Anti-Counterfeiting Efforts at Mines Aid Military

Mike Tomac, PhD student at South Dakota School of Mining & Technology, stands near a small-scale K-Span structure used to test the viability of adapting off-the-shelf solar technology to deployable structures for the Air Force at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. (Courtesy Photo)

Whether it’s ensuring that service men and women have hot water on deployments or preventing the distribution of dangerous counterfeit products, research developed at South Dakota of Mines & Technology - and strengthened through partnerships with the United States Air Force - is changing the future.   

In hot water

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center and SD Mines have focused efforts on bringing off-the-grid electricity and hot water to difficult deployment locations around the world. The research work is led by Ph.D. candidate Mike Tomac, Chemical and Biological Engineering professor David Dixon, Ph.D., and former Mines faculty member Butch Skillman.

Using equipment originally designed to heat residential pools, the project entails deploying kit-ready solar panels and water heating systems that could provide both 

Currently, structures that provide electricity and hot water during deployments are installed on an expeditionary electrical grid and serve as command centers, mess halls, maintenance facilities and more. The structures require fuel...

Last Edited 4/26/2018 01:39:48 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 10:43:03 AM [Comments (0)]

Mines Researchers Study Kootenai River Pollutants in Montana, Other Areas

South Dakota Mines student Emily Stickney conducts research on pollutants in the Kootenai River in Montana

A recent award by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is funding South Dakota School of Mines & Technology research on how changes in land use increase pollutants and influence the health of the Kootenai River and Lake Koocanusa in Montana, Idaho and British Columbia.

Recent land use changes in the Kootenai River watershed include increased coal mining and alterations to agricultural practices.

Dr. Lisa Kunza of the Department of Chemistry & Applied Biological Sciences, is heading a collaborative research team that includes students, other university partners, and agency collaborators. The team has already received $160,000 and is expecting to receive up to $400,000 for its efforts over the next five years.

Selenium and nitrate loads are on the rise in the Kootenai River as it enters Lake Koocanusa. Selenium is a metal found in natural deposits and may be exposed during mining activity. In 2012 alone, selenium loads into the river exceeded 29,000 pounds, a five-fold increase since 1992. There is heightened concern about possible buildup of selenium in fish tissue. Nitrate loads have increased substantially as well and may alter the resources available for fisheries. 

Endangered Kootenai White Sturgeon and other organisms in the river and reservoir could also be affected by the pollutants.

Emily Stickney from Boise, Idaho, is among the undergraduate and graduate student researchers ...

Last Edited 1/17/2017 09:45:02 AM [Comments (0)]

Amazon Research

In the Amazon River, three distinct water types collect to create a uniquely rich breeding ground for extreme aquatic life.

Laurie Anderson Explores How Marine Clams Found Their Way Into one of the World’s Largest Rivers

The Amazon River is teeming with life, from solitary four-hundred-pound catfish to shoals of eight-pound piranha. But in the Amazon basin around Santarem, Brazil—where white water, clear water, and black water rivers pool together—it’s the ancient tiny mollusks that have captured the attention of Mines researcher Dr. Laurie Anderson.

The three distinct water types collect here to create a uniquely rich breeding ground for extreme aquatic life in one of the world’s largest rivers.

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Photo of Dr. Anderson by Mark Siddall, American Museum of Natural History

Anderson’s research interest is in a little known genus of typically saltwater Corbulidae clam from the last member of a once diverse radiation in the western Amazon. She has devoted much of her career to studying this clam and other family members in the fossil record, and her current research continues to explore its evo...

Last Edited 1/3/2017 08:43:26 AM [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)]