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From Byproduct to Buildings: Finding New Use for Fly Ash

Associate professor Jinhong Zhang has spent years researching construction materials created from waste, most recently fly ash.Jinhong Zhang shows off a sample of his concrete alternative material

A byproduct of coal-burning plants, fly ash – and more specifically, its extremely fine and easily inhaled particles – have been an environmental and medical concern for years. In some studies done in China, it was even linked to medical problems such as infertility.

Though regulated in the U.S., fly ash is still produced, but thanks to Zhang, it now has a new, environmentally friendly purpose as building material.

Zhang has launched a startup, Acrete, to produce the material – a concrete alternative that is three times the compressive strength of cement and twice the flexural strength. The company has since partnered with Tech Launch Arizona to patent the product and ultimately bring it to market.

Not only is using fly ash in the material a more sustainable use for the byproduct, it requires less energy to produce than traditional Portland cement.

Photo courtesy of Courtney Kock/Cronkite News

Zhang Builds Startup to Produce Concrete Alternative

Jinhong Zhang, associate professor of mining and geological engineering, has launched a startup to develop and distribute a concrete substitute he invented.

A disc made of the new UA-invented Acrete material

Zhang created Acrete with the aid of entrepreneur Abraham Jalbout and Tech Launch Arizona, the UA office that commercializes inventions stemming from faculty and student research.

UANews covered Acrete's launch in a recent story, highlighting the concrete substitute's status as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional Portland cement. Its composition – three times as much fly ash, a byproduct of coal-fired power plants – triples the amount of waste converted into useful building material while having up to three times the compressive strength of cement and twice the flexural strength.

"Our vision is to look at how we can reutilize waste and underutilized materials that are being produced as byproducts of mining," says Jalbout, Acrete's CEO. "We want to find ways to use these materials for other applications."

 

Photo courtesy of Paul Tumarkin/Tech Launch Arizona

Kemeny Discusses Benefits, Risks of Copper Slowdown

John Kemeny

A global slowdown in the production of copper may be a boon to the Arizona economy.

In a Feb. 14 interview with KJZZ, John Kemeny, department head and professor of mining and geological engineering at the University of Arizona, discussed how recent developments in countries including Brazil are impacting copper prices and boosting demand.

Greater demand and higher prices are beneficial for Arizona's mining industry, one of the leading producers of copper in the United States, Kemeny said. But he cautions that it likely means prices for certain consumer goods also will rise.

In Memoriam: James White

James WhiteThe department is sad to report the passing of James White, former professor at the UA College of Mines and recently retired co-founder of Tucson-based Modular Mining Systems, on Jan. 8.

A visionary inventor, great friend and dedicated mentor, White helped revolutionize the way mines operate in real time with the Dispatch Fleet Management System.

In recognition of his contributions to the field, he received the Medal of Merit from the Mining Foundation of the Southwest in 2003 and induction into the International Mining Technology Hall of Fame in 2015.

MGE Junior Is a 'Miner of Tomorrow'

Alex NatheWhat attracted Alex Nathe to a career in mining? The opportunity for travel, and the fact that it "will never go out of style."

Alex, an MGE junior with an emphasis in mineral processing, received a 2016 scholarship from Hexagon Mining.

Learn more about her ambitions – and dream dinner guests – in a recent interview for the Hexagon newsletter.

Spotlight on Sundt Intern Alyssa Hom

Alyssa HomIn a quick-and-easy Q&A, recent graduate Alyssa Hom described her internship at Sundt Construction, where she worked out of the Ocotillo Wastewater Reclamation Facility in Chandler, Arizona.

She cites diverse tasks and "thoughtful and considerate" mentorship among the benefits of the experience.

UA Mining Engineering Internships Open Doors to Professional Success

Brian Njenga conducting a field inspection at the Tenke Fungurume mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The mining industry spans the globe, as do alumni of the University of Arizona mining and geological engineering program. Many got their feet wet working as interns for Arizona-based mining companies like Freeport-McMoRan.  

Andrew DeSantola and Brian Njenga, friends from the Class of 2014, are two who transformed their internships into full-time jobs as mine engineers working on international projects.

Lundin to Present 11th Annual Lacy Lecture

Portrait of Lukas H. LundinOn Friday, Oct. 28, at 4 p.m., internationally renowned business leader and philanthropist Lukas H. Lundin will present the 11th annual W.C. Lacy Distinguished Lecture.

His address, "What It Takes to Build a World-Class Mine: Three Case Studies," serves as the signature event for the University of Arizona department of mining and geological engineering Homecoming celebration.

No RSVP is required for the event, which will be held in the auditorium of the Center for Creative Photography. Guests are welcome, and an informal reception will follow the lecture on the patio of the Harvill Building.

MSHA Funds MGE Mining Safety Game

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration has awarded the University of Arizona more than $180,000 to support the continued development of a virtual reality game that hones safety and self-escape skills in underground mine emergencies.

This "serious game," Harry's Hard Choices, was first conceptualized by MGE's Mary Poulton and Ros Hill.

Environmental Efforts Bring University Fellow to MGE

Portrait of Junmo Ahn; photo by John de DiosFirst-year doctoral student Junmo Ahn intends to improve sustainability efforts in the mining industry, thanks in part to support from the UA Graduate College's University Fellows program. As part of the program's 2016-2017 cohort, he will study how biotechnology can reduce the environmental effects of mining waste while also extracting valuable resources.

Ahn holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from Konkuk University and a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from Seoul National University.

Photo by John de Dios

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