• InfrastructureMarine Sponges Inspire Next Generation Skyscrapers, Bridges

    When we think about sponges, we tend to think of something soft and squishy. But researchers are using the glassy skeletons of marine sponges as inspiration for the next generation of stronger and taller buildings, longer bridges, and lighter spacecraft.

  • Rare earth mineralsTurning Waste into Valuable Critical Minerals

    A new way to treat acid mine drainage (AMD) could help transform the environmental pollution problem into an important domestic source of the critical rare earth elements needed to produce technology ranging from smart phones to fighter jets.

  • Beirut explosionWhat is Ammonium Nitrate, the Chemical that Exploded in Beirut?

    By Gabriel da Silva

    Ammonium nitrate has the chemical formula NHNO₃. Produced as small porous pellets, or “prills,”it’s one of the world’s most widely used fertilizers. It is also the main component in many types of mining explosives, where it’s mixed with fuel oil and detonated by an explosive charge. For an industrial ammonium nitrate disaster to occur, a lot needs to go wrong. Tragically, this seems to have been the case in Beirut.

  • Rare earth elementsE-Waste-Eating Protein Creates Rare Earth Elements

    Rare earth elements (REE) are essential for American competitiveness in the clean energy industry because they are used in many devices important to a high-tech economy and national security. Researchers have designed a new process, based on a naturally occurring protein, that could extract and purify REE from low-grade sources. It could offer a new avenue toward a more diversified and sustainable REE sector for the United States.

  • 3D-printing vulnerabilityReverse Engineering of 3D-Printed Parts by Machine Learning Reveals Security Vulnerabilities

    Over the past thirty years, the use of glass- and carbon- fiber reinforced composites in aerospace and other high-performance applications has soared along with the broad industrial adoption of composite materials. Machine learning can make reverse engineering of complex composite material parts easy.

  • Critical mineralsCritical Minerals in U.S. Waters

    For centuries, people have crossed oceans in search of valuable minerals. In recent times, though, increasing attention has been paid to the oceans themselves for their mineral potential, especially rock formations on the seafloor. American researchers are focusing primarily on the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, or EEZ. This region extends 200 miles from a country’s shoreline and gives the country control over the exploration and exploitation of marine resources in that area.

  • MineralsU.S. Mine Produced $86.3 Billion in Minerals in 2019

    U.S. mines produced approximately $86.3 billion in minerals in 2019 –- more than $2 billion higher than revised 2018 production totals. The U.S. continues to rely on foreign sources for some raw and processed mineral materials. In 2019, imports made up more than one-half of U.S apparent consumption for 46 nonfuel mineral commodities, and the U.S. was 100 percent net import reliant for 17 of those. The domestic production of critical rare-earth mineral concentrates increased by 8,000 metric tons (over 44 percent) in 2019 to 26,000 metric tons, making the U.S. the largest producer of rare-earth mineral concentrates outside of China.

  • MineralsIdentifying the Greatest Risk to U.S. Mineral Resource Supplies

    Policymakers and the U.S. manufacturing sector now have a powerful tool to help them identify which mineral commodities they rely on that are most at risk to supply disruptions. The risk tool identified 23 mineral commodities whose supply poses the greatest risk, including those used in consumer electronics, renewable energy, aerospace, and defense applications.

  • Fire risksBuilding Standards Give Us False Hope. There's No Such Thing as a Fireproof House

    By Geoff Hanmer

    Bushfires have killed 33 people and destroyed nearly 3,000 houses across Australia so far this fire season. Canberra is under threat right now. It isn’t only houses. Significant commercial buildings have been destroyed, among them Kangaroo Island’s iconic Southern Ocean Lodge. In New South Wales alone, 140 schools have been hit. Many require extensive work. Trouble is, Australia’s National Construction Code provides false, and dangerous, hope. The sad truth is that any practical building that is exposed to an intense bushfire will probably burn down, whether it complies with Australia’s National Construction Code or not.

  • Rare earth mineralsSustainable Supply of Rare Earth Minerals Key to Low-Carbon Energy Future

    The global low-carbon revolution could be at risk unless new international agreements and governance mechanisms are put in place to ensure a sustainable supply of rare minerals and metals, a new study has warned.

  • Infrastructure protectionWhat Causes Steel Corrosion in Reinforced Concrete

    Since the Egyptian pyramids and the Roman Coliseum were built, mankind has been searching for an affordable, versatile building material, that can be easily manufactured and transported, and, above all, which is durable. Concrete has all these characteristics, but there is a problem: the corrosion of steel bars that internally strengthen structures made of reinforced concrete. This situation causes rapid, internal deterioration of frames and may even lead to buildings collapsing.

  • PerspectiveR&D, not Greenland, Can Solve Our Rare Earth Problem

    While President Trump’s proposal to buy Greenland lit up social media feeds and left many scratching their heads, people who work on rare earth elements were not surprised. Greenland has rare earth elements, and currently most are mined in China. Julie Michelle Klinger and Roger Turner write that instead of periodically reviving rare earth scarcity myths to stoke anti-China sentiment or justify outlandish ideas like buying Greenland or pulverizing the moon, we can invest in several areas where people are already working. “Opening more mines like it’s 1590, buying territories like it’s 1867, or blasting asteroids like we’re in a 1950s sci-fi flick won’t solve the problem, because the problem is not a shortage of unrefined ores. Instead, smart R&D investments will bring our production, consumption and disposal practices into the 21st century. This means reducing waste, increasing recycling and repair, and cleaning up the dirtiest and most dangerous aspects of the supply chain.”

  • Perspective: Rare earthsU.S. and Australia Team Up against China's Dominance in Rare Earths

    An Australian rare-earth producer has enlisted an American partner to help it chip away at China’s dominance in supplying minerals that are crucial to making smartphones, missiles, batteries for electric vehicles and a long list of high-tech products. China has used its rare-earth dominance as a weapon in previous trade disputes and has signaled that it could do so again in its current fight with the U.S.

  • Perspective: China syndromeChina's War Chest of Rare Earth Patents Give an Insight into Total Domination of the Industry

    China is strengthening its grip on the rare earths supply chain and could use its dominant position as a bargaining chip in its trade war with the U.S. China has been investing heavily on facilities to do the bulk of the dirty and environmentally damaging mining and ore processing work for the world, systematically turning its know-how and methodologies into patents that could give it a competitive edge against its rivals. As of October, China had filed for 25,911 patents on all the rare earth elements, far ahead of 9,810 by the US, 13,920 by Japan and 7,280 by the European Union since 1950 when the first U.S. filing was made.

  • Perspective: China syndromeGallium: China Tightens Grip on Wonder Metal

    Did you know that a 5G base station can be squeezed into a casing the size of a shoebox? It’s thanks to gallium, a soft, bluish metal that makes it possible. The chipsets that generate powerful bursts of high frequency radio waves are not made with silicon, but gallium nitride. Gallium is one of the 35 technology-critical elements listed by the U.S. government as a national security concern. Like rare earths, the global supply of gallium is under Chinese control. China produced 390 tons of raw gallium last year, or more than 95 percent of the world output, according to the United States Geological Survey.