• InfrastructureSmart Concrete Could Pave the Way for High-Tech, Cost-Effective Roads

    By Luna Lu and Vishal Saravade

    Of the 614,387 bridges in the U.S., for example, 39% are older than their designed lifetimes, while nearly 10% are structurally deficient, meaning they could begin to break down faster or, worse, be vulnerable to catastrophic failure. The cost to repair and improve nationwide transportation infrastructure ranges from nearly US$190 billion to almost $1 trillion. Repairing U.S. infrastructure costs individual households, on average, about $3,400 every year. Traffic congestion alone is estimated to cost the average driver $1,400 in fuel and time spent commuting, a nationwide tally of more than $160 billion per year.

  • InfrastructureBuilding European Cities with Wood Would Sequester, Store Half of Cement industry’s Carbon Emissions

    Buildings around us create a whopping one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions – that’s about ten times more than air traffic worldwide. In Europe alone about 190 million square meters of housing space are built each year, mainly in the cities, and the amount is growing quickly at the rate of nearly one percent a year. Slowly increasing the use of wood in European construction could increase the carbon storage of buildings by 420 million CO2 tons over the next 20 years.

  • Rare earth mineralsPredicting Valuable Rare Earth Element Deposits

    Pioneering new research has helped geologists solve a long-standing puzzle that could help pinpoint new, untapped concentrations of some the most valuable rare earth deposits.

  • 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.”