Category Archives: Research

Phosphorus eaters—Using bacteria to purify iron ore

eiseleresearchMany iron ore deposits around the world are extensive and easy to mine, but can’t be used because of their high phosphorus content. Phosphorus content in steel should generally be less than 0.02 percent. Any more and steel becomes brittle and difficult to work. 

Tim Eisele
Tim Eisele
Chemical Engineering

Beneficiation plant processing, which treats ore to make it more suitable for smelting, only works if the phosphorus mineral grains are bigger than a few micrometers in size. Often, phosphorus is so finely disseminated through iron ore that grinding and physically separating out the phosphorus minerals is impractical.

Tim Eisele is developing communities of live bacteria to inexpensively dissolve phosphorus from iron ore, allowing a low-phosphorus iron concentrate to be produced. “For finely dispersed phosphorus, until now, there really hasn’t been a technology for removing it,” he says.

Phosphorus is critical to all living organisms. Eisele’s experiments are designed so that organisms can survive only if they are carrying out phosphorus extraction. He uses phosphorus-free growth media.

“We’ve confirmed that when there is no iron ore added to the media, there is no available phosphorus and no bacterial growth.”

– Tim Eisele

Eisele is investigating two approaches, one using communities of aerobic organisms to specifically attack the phosphorus, and another using anaerobic organisms to chemically reduce and dissolve the iron while leaving the phosphorus behind. He obtained organisms from local sources—his own backyard, in fact, where natural conditions select for the types of organisms desired. Eisele originally got the idea for this approach as a result of the high iron content of his home well water, caused by naturally-occuring anaerobic iron-dissolving organisms.

On the right, anaerobic bacteria dissolve iron in the ferrous state. On the left, recovered electrolytic iron.
In the beaker on the right, anaerobic bacteria dissolve iron in the ferrous state. On the left, recovered electrolytic iron.

Eisele cultivates anaerobic and aerobic organisms in the laboratory to fully adapt them to the ore. “We use mixed cultures of organisms that we have found to be more effective than pure cultures of a single species of organism. Using microorganism communities will also be more practical to implement on an industrial scale, where protecting the process from contamination by outside organisms may be impossible.”


Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Labs Available to Harvey Displaced Researchers

March for ScienceFour Michigan Tech labs, so far, have responded to a request by scientific honor society Sigma Xi and the March for Science for researchers to open their labs to scientists displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Rudy Luck (Chem), David Shonnard (ChemEng), Paul Sanders (MSE) and the Great Lakes Research Center all have invited researchers and students impacted by Harvey to work in their labs.

In its call for lab space, Sigma Xi wrote, “some researchers in the storm’s path will be displaced from their laboratories for an extended period. These individuals may require extraordinary measures to continue their work. Sigma Xi is joining with March for Science to assemble a list of research laboratories nationwide that are willing to accommodate faculty, postdocs and students who need to temporarily relocate.”

Nationwide, 290 labs have signed up so far. To see the list of labs click here.

By Jenn Donovan.

Biofuels Conversion, Biochemical & Thermochemical

Shonnard Lab @ Michigan Technological University
Houghton, MI
David Shonnard
drshonna@mtu.edu

Alloy Research

Sanders Alloy Research Lab @ Michigan Technical University
Houghton, MI
Paul Sanders
sanders@mtu.edu
Al, Fe, Ni, Cu, Mg alloy development; modeling, casting, thermo-mechanical processing, mechanical testing, SEM/TEM
may be able to provide basic housing (basement bed, bath)


NASA Funding on Lake-Effect Snowstorm Models

Pengfei Xue
Pengfei Xue

Pengfei Xue (CEE) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $104,168 research and development grant from NASA. Mark Kulie (GMES/GLRC) is the Co-PI on the project, ” Evaluation and Advancing the Representation of Lake-Atmosphere Interactions and Resulting Heavy Lake-Effect Snowstorms across the Laurentian Great Lakes Basin Within the NASA-Unified Weather Research and Forecasting Model.”

This is the first year of a potential four-year project totaling $327,927.


NSF Funding on Deep Learning in Geosystems

Zhen Liu
Zhen Liu

Zhen (Leo) Liu (CEE) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $227,367 research and development grand from the National Science Foundation.

Shiyan Hu (ECE/MTTI) is Co-PI on the project “Image-Data-Driven Deep Learning in Geosystems.” This is a two-year project.

By Sponsored Programs.

Abstract

Breakthroughs in deep learning in 2006 triggered numerous cutting-edge innovations in text processing, speech recognition, driverless cars, disease diagnosis, and so on. This project will utilize the core concepts underlying the recent computer vision innovations to address a rarely-discussed, yet urgent issue in engineering: how to analyze the explosively increasing image data including images and videos, which are difficult to analyze with traditional methods.

The goal of this study is to understand the image-data-driven deep learning in geosystems with an exploratory investigation into the stability analysis of retaining walls. To achieve the goal, the recent breakthroughs in computer vision, which were later used as one of the core techniques in the development of Google’s AlphaGo, will be studied for its capacity in assessing the stability of a typical geosystem, i.e., retaining walls.

Read more at the National Science Foundation.


Students Needed for AutoDrive Design Job

AutoDriveThe Electrical, Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Departments will hold a community forum at 5 p.m. this Thursday (June 29, 2017) in EERC 100 concerning the AutoDrive Autonomous Vehicle competition.

Michigan Tech is one of eight schools selected to participate in this three year competition. In this forum, we will discuss the high level details concerning the first year of the competition and ways the greater campus community can get involved.

The competition team is also currently looking for motivated students with engineering and software design experience to assist the team on critical design activities during the month of July. Several paid positions are available to exceptionally well-qualified students.

By Jeremy Bos.



Silicon Solar Cell Research in the Journal of Optics

Journal of OpticsAlumni Chenlong Zhang (MSE), Jephias Gwamuri (MSE) and electrical and computer engineering students Sandra Cvetanovic and Mehdi Sadatgol coauthored an article with Durdu Guney (ECE) and Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE), Enhancement of hydrogenated amorphous silicon solar cells with front-surface hexagonal plasmonic arrays from nanoscale lithography, in the Journal of Optics.

doi.org/10.1088/2040-8986/aa7291


Michigan Tech at Great Lakes Research Conference

Noel Urban and Ashley HendricksThirty-one faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, from Houghton and Ann Arbor, traveled to Detroit from May 15-19. 2017, to attend the 60th International Association of Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) conference at the Cobo Center. Michigan Tech engagement included exhibitor displays staffed by the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) and the Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI). Michigan Tech was a contributing sponsor made possible by support from the College of Engineering, College of Sciences and Arts, the GLRC and MTRI.

Ashley Hendricks, a graduate student in Environmental Engineering and advised by Dr. Noel Urban (CEE), won the “2017 David M. Dolan Memorial Fellowship” for pursuing graduate research involving modeling and statistics related to the Great Lakes.

Read more at the Great Lakes Research Center blog.


Opportunities in Forest Biomaterials Research

Biomaterials Research
Video: Biomaterials Research

According to Mark Rudnicki, a professor of practice in forest biomaterials at Michigan Technological University, Michigan ranks ninth in the nation in acres of forest cover. It’s also home to several forest-related industries, including forestry and logging, wood products manufacturing and paper manufacturing. In 2013, Michigan Tech initiated the development of a broad coalition – with members from Michigan industry, government and academia – to facilitate the cultivation of new ways to use forest biomaterials.

The initiative has evolved into the Michigan Forest Biomaterials Institute (MiFBI) and Rudnicki is its executive director.

Read more and watch the video at Unscripted: Science and Engineering Research, by Stefanie Sidortsova.

The mission of the Michigan Forest Biomaterials Institute (MiFBI) is to enhance quality of life in Michigan by fostering sustainable forests, communities, and economies through innovative and responsible production, use, and recycling of forest biomaterials.

MIFBI invites individuals and corporate entities (businesses, institutions, associations and government agencies) supportive of developing a forest bioeconomy in Michigan to join MIFBI as a Regular or Associate member.


2017 Research Excellence Funding

ResearchThe Vice President for Research Office announced the 2017 REF awards and thanked the volunteer review committees, as well as the deans and department chairs, for their time spent on this important internal research award process.

Infrastructure Enhancement (IE) Grants
Dan Seguin (MSE/IMP)

Research Seed (RS) Grants
Daisuke Minakata (CEE)
Radwin Askari (GMES/EPSSI)

Portage Health Foundation (PHF) Mid-Career (MC)
CK Choi (MEEM)
Megan Frost (Bio Med)
Jeremy Goldman (Bio Med)

Original article by VPR.