Department faculty at the University of Kentucky collaborate very well with industry as well as researchers from other units and institutions and generate considerable research output every year.
Among the research projects currently undertaken by the department is a Department of Energy funded program on the development of a carbon-negative process for comminution energy reduction and energy-relevant mineral extraction through carbon mineralization and biological carbon fixation. The concept utilizes CO₂ emitted at or near operating mines and processing operations to reduce the energy consumed during grinding by more than 50% while improving the recovery of critical energy relevant minerals by 20% or greater. The project is focused on applications involving ore sources of rare earth elements and copper.
The UK explosives research (UKERT) team often participates in blast mitigation and explosives usage optimization studies. UKERT is currently working on a project related to technological innovations and human factors for effective miner self-escape from underground mine emergencies. This project involves extending an existing eight-foot by eight-foot shock tube, constructing a 1/10 scale model shock tube of the Lake Lynn Experimental Mine, conducting numerical modeling, and, finally, providing a risk assessment related to the effects of geometry on methane explosion propagation. The research is conducted at the Georgetown Laboratory, which is situated in an underground limestone mine close to the UK campus.
Another research project that has recently started is funded by NIOSH and is related to the development of an In-Mine Underground Collision Avoidance Information System. This project aims to demonstrate an AI-powered hazard identification and alert system that can be retrofitted onto existing underground equipment.
Department personnel are also working on the development of a stability mapping platform for stone mines that will combine numerical modeling and empirical criteria. This is a project funded by the Alpha Foundation for the Improvement of Mine Safety and Health and aims to develop a new platform that can be used to assess the stability of pillars in underground stone mines. A new software tool will be freely available to all stakeholders.
Developing sustainable recycling technologies for e-waste continues to be an area of focused effort for UK Mining Engineering’s recycling research. One recent development is with utilizing end-of-life solar panels. High grade silicon is recovered from damaged panels and evaluated for use as anode material in lithium ion batteries. The attraction of silicon-based anodes is their theoretical charge capacity, which is about an order of magnitude greater than incumbent graphite-based electrodes. This project is being conducted in collaboration with the Carbon Materials group at the UK Center for Applied Energy Research.