Engineering researchers are putting an innovative two-story structure made of cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels through a series of seismic tests to gather scientific data that will enable design of mass timber buildings that can survive large earthquakes with little or no repair.

Colorado School of Mines Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor Shiling Pei is the lead researcher on the NSF-funded project, having conducted similar tests on a much smaller scale on Mines’ campus prior to this massive effort using the world’s largest outdoor shake-table in San Diego, California.

“Designing buildings that are safe even during large earthquakes is hugely important. We are doing that – and we are going further,” Pei said. “We are working to minimize the amount of time buildings are out of service after large earthquakes. We are also focused on cutting the costs required to repair them.”

The tests are being conducted at NHERI@UCSD, an experimental test site at UC San Diego funded through the NSF’s Natural Hazard Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) program. The tests will produce data that will be used in the design of a new generation of tall mass timber structures up to 20 stories.

Researchers work on compeleting construction of the test-structure. Photo Credit: University of California San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering
Researchers work on compeleting construction of the test-structure.
Photo Credit: University of California San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

“The overarching goal of this project is to propose a design methodology for seismically resilient tall wood buildings for regions with high seismicity, meaning the building can be quickly repaired after large earthquakes to minimize loss of use,” Pei said. “Several tests will be conducted at different shaking intensities representing frequent, design code level and maximum considered earthquake events.”

The 22-foot-tall structure will be put through a tremor simulating the 6.7 magnitude 1994 Northridge earthquake in the San Fernando Valley, but for twice as long. Researchers will collect data through more than 300 channels in three phases of testing on the building. Data will be generated at pre-selected points to measure how the CLT panels bend and how the panels move relative to each other.

Researchers are particularly interested in a system that allows the building to rock in response to an earthquake and how the walls and floors interact during shaking.

“We have tested the rocking walls by themselves in the lab, but as structural engineers, we know that the system is not equal to the sum of its parts. There are interactions between the parts. That’s why NHERI projects funded by the NSF are so critical. We are finally going to be able to get data on how the different components function as a system during strong earthquakes,” Pei said. 

In a so-called “rocking wall system,” vertical mass timber walls are connected to the foundation by post-tensioned rods that run up through the floor and special U-shaped steel energy dissipaters. The rods allow the walls to rock during an earthquake and snap back into their original upright position, minimizing deformation and resulting structural damage.

A consortium of universities is collaborating on the NSF project, including Mines, Colorado State University, University of Washington, Washington State University, Oregon State University, Lehigh University, University of Nevada Reno and University of California San Diego.

The two-story investigative testing also received support from multiple industrial partners including Katerra; Simpson Strong-Tie; Tallwood Design Institute; DR Johnson Lumber Co.; Forest Products Laboratory; City of Springfield, Oregon; Softwood Lumber Board; and MyTiCon Timber Connectors.

The NSF project also includes another large-scale test planned later this year at the NHERI-Lehigh testing facility. Based on the insights gleaned from this current set of tests and related research, the team will return to San Diego in 2020 to build, shake and ultimately burn an earthquake-resilient 10-story timber building on the UC San Diego shake table.

The project detail can be found on Ongoing activity at the outdoor shake-table of the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure facility is live-streamed by webcam at  Photos are available on Flickr at

Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 |
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist | 303-273-3361 |

Sixth grade students explore the Mines Geology Museum.

About 160 sixth-grade students from the Denver School of Science and Technology’s College View campus visited Colorado School of Mines on June 28 in a trip organized by the Critical Materials Institute.

In addition to touring the Geology Museum and Geology Trail, students visited the Mines Tiny House project, under construction in Mines Park, to participate in hands-on activities and learn about solar technology, energy efficiency, sustainability and design challenges.

2017 DSST at Mines

Joe DelNero, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3326 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

The Mines Center for Hydrate Research hosted the ninth International Conference on Gas Hydrates in Denver.

The Colorado School of Mines Center for Hydrate Research hosted the ninth International Conference on Gas Hydrates in Denver from June 25 to 30, bringing together top researchers from around the world.

“The ICGH9 Conference is the most prestigious conference in the gas hydrate research field,” said Carolyn Koh, director of the Center for Hydrate Research and the Coors Distinguished Chair of Chemical and Biological Engineering. “This conference puts Colorado School of Mines and the Center for Hydrate Research on the world map.”

Gas hydrates are compounds in which gas is trapped within a crystal structure of water, forming ice-like solids. These present a potential hazard to the oil and gas industries when they form in underwater flowlines, and also have potential applications in energy recovery, transport and storage.

More than 550 attendees represented 27 countries at the event. Academic and industry scientists and engineers, as well as government scientists and policymakers attended to review recent developments in the field. Topics ranged from gas hydrate fundamentals to applied flow assurance, energy recovery, climate change and gas hydrate-related geohazards.

“Gas hydrates research has a huge impact on the environment, not only as a flow assurance problem but also as an energy resource,” Koh said. “The amount of energy that could be harvested from these gas hydrates under the sea floor is phenomenal and, if successful, the United States will have enough energy for many decades to come.”

“We are particularly pleased to see young scientists with their enthusiasm and new ideas, and also to show the research achieved by Mines students and professors in the Center for Hydrate Research,” Koh added.

Through oral sessions, poster presentations, exhibitors and social events, attendees exchange ideas, expertise and form new working relationships.

“Scientists come together to further their knowledge by exchanging novel ideas and technologies for the advancement of research in gas hydrates and future collaborations,” Koh said. “This research is important to all countries worldwide.”


Joe DelNero, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3326 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

A Colorado School of Mines associate professor of chemical and biological engineering has been recognized for her research into capturing mercury and carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants and preventing their release into the atmosphere.

Jennifer Wilcox was awarded the 2017 Arthur C. Stern Award for Distinguished Paper, which is given annually for an outstanding contribution to the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. The paper, titled “Heterogenous Mercury Reaction Chemistry on Activated Carbon,” was published in 2011 with coauthors Erdem Sasmaz, Abbigail Kirchofer and Sang-Sup Lee.

Jennifer WilcoxThe work examines materials that can oxidize mercury, allowing it to be captured. “Coal burning is the number one anthropogenic source of mercury emissions worldwide,” Wilcox said. “This work leads to a deeper understanding of how materials may be modified for more effective mercury removal from exhaust streams of coal-fired power plants,” said the citation from the Air & Waste Management Association.

The award is based on the publication of a paper in JA&WMA that has greatly advanced science and technology; is technical, scientific or management in nature, while advancing the mission of JA&WMA; and is considered to be a substantial contribution toward improving our understanding of air pollution and waste management problems, their impact on environment and health, and the use of sustainable practices in reducing our environmental footprint.

Wilcox also received a Best Presentation Award in the Fall 2016 session of the American Chemical Society, which led to an invitation to publish in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. The paper, titled “Effect of Water on the CO2 Adsorption Capacity of Amine-Functionalized Carbon Sorbents," was subsequently featured on the cover of the journal’s May 31, 2017, issue. Wilcox’s coauthors were Peter Psarras and Jiajun He.

The exhaust of coal-fired power plants is comprised mostly of nitrogen, with near-equal amounts of water vapor and CO2, Wilcox said. Because water is often more reactive than CO2, it is important to design materials that have an affinity for carbon dioxide. “This work, through a combination of modeling and experiments, shows a novel material with promise for the selective removal of CO2 from coal-fired power plant exhaust in the presence of water vapor and acid gases,” Wilcox said

Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
Ashley Spurgeon, Assistant Editor, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 |

Colorado School of Mines Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Marte Gutierrez, Petroleum Engineering Professor Azra Tutuncu and alumnus Luke Frash have been awarded the 2017 Applied Rock Mechanics Research Award by the American Rock Mechanics Association.

Luke Frash and Marte Gutierrez during a visit with Darren Mollot, Director of the Office of Clean Energy Systems in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy.
Luke Frash and Marte Gutierrez showcase their research during a visit from Darren Mollot, Director of the Office of Clean Energy Systems in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy.

Frash earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering with specialties in civil engineering and a PhD in civil and environmental engineering from Mines, studying under Gutierrez. He is now a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The team is receiving the award for their 2015 publication, “True-Triaxial Hydraulic Fracturing of Niobrara Carbonate Rock as an Analogue for Complex Oil and Gas Reservoir Stimulation.” The main topics of research, funded partially by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Unconventional Natural Gas and Oil Institute, were development of enhanced geothermal systems and hydraulic fracturing in shale oil and gas reservoirs.

“Well stimulation by hydraulic fracturing is a common method for increasing the injectivity and productivity of wells,” Gutierrez said. “This method is beneficial for many applications, including oil, gas, geothermal energy and CO2 sequestration; however, hydraulic fracturing in shale and other similarly complex geologies remains poorly understood.”

Seeking to bridge the gap in understanding, the team conducted research on large natural rock specimens using true-triaxal stresses, intended to represent field-scale complexities of known oil and gas reservoirs.

“Results from such large-scale hydraulic experiments, particularly on naturally heterogeneous rock samples, remain very limited,” Gutierrez said.

The research team developed special equipment to conduct these innovative field-scale experiments, and Gutierrez says “the results from the scale-model hydraulic fracturing experiments are envisioned to be of important value to the practice of hydraulic fracturing in several fields.”

The award will be presented during the 51st U.S. Rock Mechanics/Geomechanics Symposium in San Francisco, California, on June 25-28, 2017.

Support for the research was provided by the Unconventional Natural Gas and Oil Institute (UNGI) Coupled Integrated Multi Scale Measurements and Modeling Consortium (CIMMM), and the U.S. Department of Energy under DOE Grant No. DE-FE0002760, “Development and Validation of an Advanced Stimulation Prediction Model for Enhanced Geothermal Systems.”

Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

Rosie-FryerGeology graduate student Rosemarie (Rosie) Fryer has been awarded two grants from national organizations for her research on the submarine lobe deposits of Point Loma in San Diego, California.

Fryer received a $2,500 grant from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Grants-in-Aid Program, and a $1,775 grant from the Geological Society of America.

The AAPG program provides financial assistance to graduate geoscience students to promote research in petroleum and energy mineral resources or related to environmental geology issues, awarding scholarships ranging from $500-$3,000 to approximately 100 graduate students nationwide every year.

The goal of the GSA student research grant program is to support geoscience master’s and doctoral thesis research, awarding approximately 400 grants averaging $1,752 to graduate students across the United States each year.

Fryer plans to use her grant money to fund field trips to the Point Loma study area during the 2017-2018 academic year. “I am extremely excited that these funds will be used directly towards a field season in the fall, for creating thin sections and laser grain size analysis for my master’s thesis,” she said. 

As these sand-rich submarine lobe deposits form significant hydrocarbon reservoirs, Fryer’s research could prove extremely beneficial to the oil and gas industry by allowing for more accurate geological reservoir models. According to Fryer, the project has immediate applicability to reservoirs currently hosted in submarine lobe deposits, such as the Deepwater Wilcox Reservoirs in the Gulf of Mexico and others in the North Sea, West Africa and the Permian Basin.

Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 |
Ashley Spurgeon, Assistant Editor, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 |

Amadeu Sum, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, has been awarded the 2017 Arthur Lubinski OTC Best Paper Award by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

This prestigious recognition is awarded annually during the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) by the ASME Petroleum Division to a contribution that has the highest impact on the offshore industry. The award is named after Arthur Lubinski, who created the ASME Study Committee for the Exchange of Offshore Information that led to the formation of OTC.

Greg Kusinski, Amadeu Sum, Joseph Gomes
From left to right: Greg Kusinski, Amadeu Sum, Joseph Gomes receive the award at the OTC2017 ASME Banquet.

Sum received the award for his paper “Hydrate Management for Systems with High Salinity Brines at Ultra-High Pressures,” coauthored with Yue Hu and Bo Ram Lee, Colorado School of Mines; Prasad Karanjkar, ConocoPhillips; Joseph Gomes, DeepStar; and Greg Kusinski, Chevron. This paper was selected from the hundreds of submissions that were presented at OTC2017 in Houston, Texas.

The work was inspired by an engineering challenge initiated by DeepStar, a joint industry technology development consortium of 12 oil and gas companies, seeking to support deepwater high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) field development activities in the Gulf of Mexico.

In order to conduct research in these extreme conditions, the research team engineered a novel HPHT experimental chamber in which a series of experiments was conducted. This work enabled the delivery of a computational model that can serve as a practical engineering tool for Industry to better predict undesired hydrate plug formations, allowing for optimization of methanol treatment.

Sum’s work verified and validated industry’s understanding of thermodynamics relative to hydrate formation in high salinity and HPHT systems, proving fundamentally important to the development of HPHT fields.

The Lubinski Best Paper Award was presented to Sum and his coauthors on May 1 at the ASME Best Mechanical Engineering Award Banquet.

Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

16th Annual North American Mine Ventilation Symposium

Colorado School of Mines hosted the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration’s 16th North American Mine Ventilation Symposium, which provides mine ventilation engineers and technicians with the latest information and operating practices from the field, from June 17 to 22.

“With the help of the organizing committee, we assembled a strong, three-day program with technical papers and presentations organized in 20 sessions,” said Jürgen Brune, research professor in the Department of Mining Engineering.

More than 200 industry professionals, exhibitors and booth staff attended the symposium, exchanging ideas and research covering topics such as monitoring air contaminants and producing power-efficient ventilation and cooling systems. The symposium included short courses, technical sessions and even a mine tour.

Rick Brake, director at Mine Ventilation Australia, recieved the 2017 Howard L. Hartman Award, which recognizes distinguished contributions in practice, teaching or research in the field of underground ventilation engineering. Raja Ramani, a previous Hartman award winner and emeritus Deike chair and emeritus professor at Penn State University, gave the keynote address, "Underground Mine Ventilation: Progess and Challenges."

SME’s Underground Ventilation Committee initiated the symposium series, which has been held every two or three years since 1982 and it continues to provide “the latest scientific and technical updates to ventilation engineers and researchers worldwide,” Brune said.

View all of the photos from the event on Flickr.

Joe DelNero, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3326 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

Colorado School of Mines researchers are part of a multi-institutional team that has discovered a way to create new alloys that could form the basis of next-generation semiconductors.

A paper on that work, titled “Novel phase diagram behavior and materials design in heterostructural semiconductor alloys,” was published in the journal Science Advances on June 7, 2017. Coauthors include Mines Associate Professor Brian Gorman, adjunct faculty Ann Deml and Research Assistant Professor Andriy Zakutayev in the Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Department, and Physics Research Professor David Ginley. Zakutayev and Ginley are both joint appointees with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which led the study.

Semiconductor alloys already exist—often made from a combination of materials with similar atomic arrangements—but until now researchers believed it was unrealistic to make alloys of certain constituents.

“Maybe in the past scientists looked at two materials and said I can’t mix those two. What we’re saying is think again,” said Aaron Holder, a former NREL postdoctoral researcher and now research faculty at the University of Colorado Boulder who is the corresponding author of the paper. “There is a way to do it.”

Scientists connected to the Center for Next Generation of Materials by Design (CNGMD) made the breakthrough and took the idea from theory to reality. An Energy Frontier Research Center, CNGMD is supported by the Energy Department’s Office of Science and researchers from NREL, Colorado School of Mines, Harvard University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oregon State University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

“It’s a really nice example of what happens when you bring different institutions with different capabilities together,” said Holder. In addition to Ginley and Zakutayev, his coauthors from NREL are Stephan Lany, Sebastian Siol, Paul Ndione, Haowei Peng, William Tumas and John Perkins.

A mismatch between atomic arrangements previously thwarted the creation of certain alloys. Researchers with CNGMD were able to create an alloy of manganese oxide (MnO) and zinc oxide (ZnO), even though their atomic structures are very different. The new alloy will absorb a significant fraction of natural sunlight, although separately neither MnO nor ZnO can. “It’s a very rewarding kind of research when you work as a team, predict a material computationally and make it happen in the lab,” Lany said.

Using heat, blending a small percent of MnO with ZnO already is possible, but reaching a 1:1 mix would require temperatures far greater than 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit), and the materials would separate again as they cool.

The scientists, who also created an alloy of tin sulfide and calcium sulfide, deposited these alloys as thin films using pulsed laser deposition and magnetron sputtering. Neither method required such high temperatures. “We show that commercial thin film deposition methods can be used to fabricate heterostructural alloys, opening a path to their use in real-world semiconductor applications,” Zakutayev said.

The research yielded a first look at the phase diagram for heterostructural alloys, revealing a predictive route for properties of other alloys along with a large area of metastability that keeps the elements combined. “The alloy persists across this entire space even though thermodynamically it should phase separate and decompose,” Holder said.

Funding for the research came from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.


Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
Ashley Spurgeon, Assistant Editor, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 |

Colorado School of Mines researchers in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering have developed magnetic “microlassos” no longer than the width of a human hair that could be used to repeatedly transport medication and other substances throughout the human body.

Their work, titled "Magnetic Microlassos for Reversible Cargo Capture, Transport, and Release," was featured on the cover of the June 13, 2017, issue of Langmuir, the American Chemical Society’s journal of fundamental interface science. The article’s authors include PhD candidate Tao Yang, postdoctoral fellow Tonguc Tasci, associate professors Keith Neeves and Ning Wu and Professor David Marr.

These microlassos are a continuation of their research into creating colloidal microwheels, where beads 4.5 microns in diameter—a micron is a millionth of a meter—are assembled and controlled using magnetic fields. One idea is that these beads could be injected into the bloodstream and, with their spinning action, used to break up blood clots.

The next step would be the ability to deliver a drug, release it where needed then come back for more, Marr said. “People have gotten so far as attaching the cargo to a device, going where it’s needed, but then they need extraordinary measures to disengage it.” The microlassos avoid this issue because the process is entirely physical—the devices are simply wrapped around the objects that need to be transported then unrolled when needed.

“With no chemistry for attachment or disengagement involved, our system can potentially be used for transporting diverse types of cargo under different solution conditions,” the researchers said.

The microlassos could also have applications in diagnostic devices, where they might minimize the amount of blood or other samples needed to make a diagnosis.

Marr said the chains are trickier to maneuver and travel a bit slower than the microwheels, partly because they need friction to move, and also because of their irregular shape. “We’re still working on it, but right now you can get them to go where you want them to,” he said.

Marr has been working to send these colloidal chains to the International Space Station to study their assembly and dynamics. “We have to do that in microgravity because these systems are dense and sink in water,” Marr said. The process has taken a few years now, but the materials could go up with SpaceX’s 12th mission to the ISS on Aug. 1.


Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
Ashley Spurgeon, Assistant Editor, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 |



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