South Dakota Mines receives $1.3 Million Grant for New Scanning Electron Microscope to Benefit Research and Industry

South Dakota Mines is installing a new Scanning Electron Microscope in the university’s Engineering and Mining Experiment Station.

South Dakota Mines is installing a new Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) in the university’s Engineering and Mining Experiment Station (EMES) thanks to a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The new microscope is just one of many state-of-the-art scientific instruments inside the recently expanded EMES which serves high-tech industry alongside university researchers across the state.

The powerful SEM microscope is a centerpiece of the EMES. It allows researchers to perform high resolution imaging, chemical analysis and sample manipulation for various materials at scales ranging down to 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The new microscope is a critical resource for a wide variety of research across multiple disciplines.

“The SEM is the most heavily used research instrument on campus,” says Grant Crawford, Ph.D., the director of the Arbegast Materials Processing and Joining Laboratory at Mines and an associate professor in the Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering.

The new SEM is equipped with a focused ion beam that dramatically expands its capability over the old system. The ion beam allows researchers to extract samples for separate analysis and create a cross section of an object’s surface. The ion beam also permits high resolution 3D imaging or compositional mapping. Furthermore, it allows researchers to manipulate or carve the surface of an object at astonishingly small scales. “It essentially allows you to do sub-micron scale machining which can be used to produce small scale electrical and mechanical devices or to perform advanced analyses,” says Crawford.

The upgraded SEM supports research in nanomaterials, biomaterials, functional materials, advanced metals processing, solid-state batteries, plant science, biofilms, advanced coatings/thin films, anti-counterfeiting technology, geoscience and energy resources. More than 35 faculty from South Dakota Mines, South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota, alongside students and researchers at Black Hills State University, Oglala Lakota College and Sinte Gleska University are expected to use the system for research and educational activities.

“This new system provides an opportunity to expand university research across the state,” says Ed Duke, Ph.D., EMES director and a professor in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering.

Besides research, the new SEM is also a critical component of ongoing STEM education at Mines. The SEM enhances the university’s ability to competitively recruit talented faculty and students from underrepresented groups by keeping the university on par with resources at other top-tier research instructions. The SEM is integrated into 11 graduate and undergraduate courses, impacting 290 students on an annual basis. 

Besides the new SEM, the EMES facility also includes a new x-ray diffraction system thanks to a South Dakota Board of Regents grant totaling $186,471. The instrument allows researchers to determine the atomic and molecular structure of a material. The new SEM and x-ray diffraction equipment are part of investments in EMES totaling more than $2.8 million since 2011 on the part the Board of Regents and the National Science Foundation. The EMES website lists the wide array of scientific equipment available for academic research and industry use.

The EMES was founded on the Mines campus in 1903 with a mission to serve the mining industry research. Today the mission has expanded to include a much broader range of academic and industry needs. In the last 10 years, the EMES has conducted about $549,000 in commercial lab services for industry clients. The instruments maintained in the EMES boost regional economic development by supporting tech-based enterprises from small start-up companies to well-established businesses.

In the future, the EMES is expected to play an increasing role in the expanding high-tech industry in the Black Hills. The effort to build a new Mineral Industries building on campus to properly house the cutting-edge equipment in EMES is a critical part of the university’s mission to support regional economic development.


Last edited 1/19/2021 4:07:49 PM

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