NRRI keeps research moving forward

Man wearing face mask stands in front of machine with plastic parts visible
June 30, 2020

When the pandemic hit, NRRI was humming with activity and preparing for a busy field season. We quickly pivoted to continue critical research for Minnesota, Federal agencies and our essential industry partners.

Here are some examples of what we’ve accomplished since the end of March:

Minerals & Metallurgy

  • Completed installation of High Pressure Grinding Rolls (HPGR) that will provide a unique mineral processing research platform for improved energy efficiency and reduced environmental impacts for the mining industry.
  • Completed projects to support essential operations in iron ore, steel, chemical and agriculture industries. Clients include large and critical industries based on the Iron Range as well as in the Minnesota metro area.
  • Completed major reports for industry partners, the U.S. Geological Survey and Minnesota Department of Transportation.
  • Prepared research proposals in response to requests from private foundations, state & federal agencies and other clients.
  • Provided Minnesota’s legislative representatives information on Minnesota’s critical minerals resources.
  • Prepared six publications for peer-reviewed journals.

Water Research

  • Conducted snowmelt sampling to understand how road salt impacts water resources for the Dept. of Natural Resources.
  • Finalized design for new, low-cost pilot-scale sulfate treatment technology for municipal water systems.
  • Submitted an annual report to the EPA on the “Status of the Lower Food Web in the Great Lakes” in addition to other aquatic food web research.
  • Designed an outreach campaign to help anglers understand how to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
  • Completed proposal applications for numerous state funded (LCCMR) projects that address the specific water challenges of Minnesota.
  • Initiated a collaborative effort to use eDNA as a tool for aquatic invasive species monitoring in Minnesota.
  • Completed proposal application to U. S. Geological Survey to understand saline wetland response to sea-level rise.
  • Collected stream samples for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to verify calculated watershed pollutant loads.
  • Collaborated with NRRI Minerals & Metallurgy Group to complete a comprehensive geochemical assessment of metals in the Great Lakes resulting in two published papers – a geochemical analysis and a paleolimnology study.
  • Published a report on how microorganisms are ‘shrinking’ in the Great Lakes, which has important implications for the food web.

Energy Management

  • Submitted a proposal with industry partners to the U.S. DOE to develop atmospheric carbon dioxide removal using proprietary technology and algae, which then converts the algae to high value biochar.
  • Continued survey of large-scale energy storage opportunities for Minnesota; detailing considerations for a variety of technologies with industry partners.
  • Reviewed equipment capabilities to produce a variety of thermally treated biomass products from forest and agricultural waste materials.

Materials & Bioeconomy

  • Initiated state-funded project to produce, characterize and expand opportunities for biochar; a material with potential applications in soil enhancement, water filtration and energy generation derived from waste biomass resources.
  • Developed intellectual property program concerning chemicals and products from forest residuals.
  • Provided material testing services for a variety of business clients.
  • Leveraged NRRI’s manufacturing capabilities to fabricate fisher den boxes for habitat studies and to lay out a Maker Space facility for a metro area social enterprise (Better Futures)
  • Deployed additive manufacturing (3D printing) lab to participate in local collaborative effort to produce PAPR respiratory masks for local healthcare providers. (Image above.)
  • Continued development of novel, biodegradable fertilizer coatings that are better for the environment.
  • Built and installed a thermally modified wood boardwalk from beetle-killed ash trees for the City of Rochester.

Forest & Land

  • Completed a study, based on historical air photos, to predict beaver dam locations and understand their impact on North Shore streams.
  • Published the Grower’s Guide for Hybrid Poplar Plantations for Biomass Production. This guide will provide practical advice to expand the use of hybrid poplars to meet growing biomass needs.
  • Produced nationally and internationally-attended webinars concerning hybrid poplar breeding and aspects of Minnesota’s wood markets and opportunities.
  • Published paper on moose habitat use in response to warmer weather and how they use both shade and wetlands to cope.
  • Collaborated with St. Louis County to develop an inventory of forest stands.
  • Completed a manuscript for submission to Forest Ecology and Management which documents the decline in bats in the wake of white-nosed syndrome. The four year study documents a 90% decline.
  • Paper accepted in Landscape Ecology on moose habitat use in response to warmer weather. We showed how moose use both shade and wet habitats in warmer temperatures of summer, which has implications for forest management.