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 wastes, recently discovered at SD Mines. The quantity of available lignin and biomass wastes generated by the paper industry, bio-refineries and agricultural facilities every year exceeds hundreds of millions of tons. The new approach allows synthesis of high-value organic products in a continuous flow tubular reactor under supercritical carbon dioxide conditions. By using this new continuous flow reactor, this approach may become feasible for industrial applications. This project is being led by Dr. Alla Smirnova, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry & Applied Biological Sciences.

The research and development projects provide unique training for students and attract external funding to secure continuous economic growth of the region, said Dr. Jan Puszynski, vice president for research at Mines and principal investigator of the grant. “SURF is an internationally recognized asset with the capacity to generate high-value research outcomes and applications that cut across all target industry sector markets.”

Last edited 2/3/2017 4:23:18 PM

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