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Sean Dessureault has spent nearly two decades advancing technology to increase efficiency and improve sustainability and safety in the mining industry. In recognition of his work, Dessureault will receive a 2013 American Mining Hall of Fame Medal of Merit from the Mining Foundation of the Southwest at its 31st annual awards banquet on December 7 in Tucson, Ariz.
“Great mining technology and many legends in the industry have come out of this University,” said Dessureault, an associate professor of mining and geological engineering who has been at the UA since 2002 and head of an Arizona consulting firm since 2004. “I am honored to be representing the UA College of Engineering.”
The world’s population and demand for minerals are both growing, and mining companies must deliver more and higher quality materials as global ore deposits diminish.
To help meet the demand, Dessureault has developed tools for big data management and information technology integration. Now, he says, the key is educating the mining workforce in how to use the data to automate mining processes.
“Information technology and training of the new mining workforce on how to use integrated data sets is the most critical investment for mining companies today,” said the Canadian transplant, who heads the University of Arizona’s Mine Intelligence Research Group, or MIRG, and the mine technology team in the Lowell Institute for Mining Resources.
Automating the mining industry is highly complex. Mine operators need to know where a specific piece of ore was extracted and how much it’s worth, while tracking vehicle maintenance and repair in real time, conducting rescue operations, managing safety conditions, and monitoring a host of other parameters that determine a mine’s safety and profitability.
“The ability to track virtually any information related to operations is key to meeting demand in socially and environmentally responsible ways,” said Dessureault. “So many mines are buried in data but starving for information. We help mining companies collect and use the information.”
Being able to combine his entrepreneurial drive and research expertise is what has made it all come together for Dessureault, who has conducted millions of dollars in research at the UA for global mining companies and government agencies and started two local companies.
“I have had the best of both worlds — the freedom to pursue commercial enterprises while doing research,” he said.
As founder and director of MIRG, Dessureault develops and tests new technologies and processes in automation centered largely around data mining and database design, business process improvement, and mining engineering.
“Sensors and tracking tools are increasingly being used in mining, and data is being collected, but the data is of little value unless it is concentrated into usable information and delivered in a way mining companies can use the knowledge to correct deficiencies and exploit opportunities,” he said.
As he develops data solutions for mining companies, Dessureault collects information to further his research in the MIRG integrated control center.
“Almost all the research we do starts out as a business enterprise where a professionally integrated data solution is designed, built and supported. That opens new research opportunities using real-life, high-quality datasets that were previously unavailable,” he said. “Once the research is completed, we have the flexibility to loop it back around to be commercialized. Our work is based on industry need, and that quickly creates high-tech jobs here in Southern Arizona.”
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Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Engineering have come up with a novel way to help the U.S. Air Force dispose of stockpiles of dangerous chemicals — using nothing more than sound waves.
The Air Force has a large stockpile — almost 11 million liters — of fire-extinguishing foam, which contains environmentally damaging organic compounds. Manish Keswani, an assistant professor in the department of materials science and engineering, and Reyes Sierra, a professor in the department of chemical and environmental engineering, have been awarded a $243,000 contract by the Air Force Civil Engineering Center to destroy the chemicals using a novel sonochemical process, which uses sound waves to break down complex and toxic molecules into nothing more than carbon dioxide and water.
“Sonolysis relies on the process of cavitation for its success,” Keswani said. “Under certain conditions, sound waves cause the formation of small bubbles that rapidly implode and release an intense shock wave that produces enormous amounts of heat energy and a variety of highly active radicals, which can completely destroy adjacent material.”
Cavitation is used in certain medical procedures and is also found in nature. Shock-wave lithotripsy relies on cavitation to destroy kidney stones, and mantis shrimps use cavitation when hunting their next meal. The shrimps strike with such velocity — about the speed of a bullet — that they generate cavitation bubbles in the water between themselves and their target. Even if they don’t make a direct strike, the resulting shock waves are enough to stun or kill their prey.
The heat energy unleashed by cavitation breaks down the bonds that tie large molecules together, such as the perfluoroalkyl sulfonates and carboxylates, or PFCs, found in fire-fighting foams. These toxic PFCs are hard to break down and tend to persist in the environment, and in body tissue, which is why the Air Force will be investigating cavitation as a cost-effective method of producing temperatures in excess of 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, more than enough to incinerate the problem chemicals.
“One novel aspect of our acoustic technology is the use of multiple sound frequencies to treat large quantities of fire-fighting foam,” Sierra said. Current sonolysis techniques use ultrasonic (20-100 kHz) or megasonic (> 0.5 MHz) frequencies, but results have been disappointing in terms of the volume of material that can be treated using these frequency ranges.
Keswani and Sierra will study the effectiveness of a dual-transducer system they have developed. It uses both ultrasonic and megasonic frequencies and can be scaled up to treat the Air Force’s large stockpile of toxic fire-fighting chemicals. Their objective is to develop a system that will produce the required high incineration temperatures and desired concentration of active oxidizing radicals while consuming the least amount of energy. They have also developed an electrochemical probe that can quickly and economically identify the most effective chemical and acoustic conditions for degrading the toxic chemicals.
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When the students talked about how “it is all around us,” they were not speaking of the unusually heavy rain that drenched the southwest last week. They were talking about science, technology, engineering and math.
In no way did the soaking dampen the enthusiasm of the nearly 160 Mansfeld Middle School students who were on the University of Arizona campus Nov. 22, 2013 for the annual SHPE/UA Science Day, sponsored by Honeywell.
Students spent the day practicing their teamwork skills as they mixed, stirred, filtered, poured and spooled for a chance to observe fruit DNA; puzzled, arranged and connected their way to the creation of an electric circuit; and figured, balanced and constructed en route to completing a number of engineering and science experiments, including one that featured a bowling ball pendulum!
The UA student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, which hosted the STEM outreach program, not only brought science to life for the students, but also members passed on a bit of wisdom about the academic and professional life awaiting the world’s future engineers.
“Science Day is one of the outreach events we hold throughout the year that give us a chance to share our knowledge about the importance of STEM and inspire kids to pursue academic degrees and careers in engineering fields,” said Leah Herlihy, SHPE/UA Science Day vice president and a senior in materials science and engineering. “From experience, we can tell these kids, ‘You can do this; you can succeed.’ ”
See the original article here.