South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

08/30/2023 | Press release | Archived content

South Dakota Mines Expands Water Testing Capability Thanks to NSF Grant

South Dakota Mines has added a new scientific instrument to the portfolio of devices on campus that tests water for trace elements and contaminants.

The new Thermo Scientific Dionex ICS-6000 High Pressure Ion Chromatography System is housed in the university's Paleontology Research Laboratory. It adds to Mines' overall capacity for highly accurate water testing. "This is a nice complementary tool with other water testing instruments we have on campus that allows us to get the full chemistry of any water sample," says Scott Beeler, Ph.D., a research scientist in the South Dakota Mines Engineering and Mining Experiment Station (EMES). "Previously, we could understand about 75% of the water chemistry of any sample; this gives us the full picture."

The instrument was paid for thanks to a $160,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will also help Mines researchers provide support, repairs and training for a similar instrument at Oglala Lakota College headquartered near the town of Kyle on Pine Ridge.

The new instrument enables a huge range of water quality testing, from understanding the chemistry of contaminated waters in work being done at Mines for the Department of Defense on PFAS, to studies on the water chemistry and its relationship to rare microbial life found inside the Sanford Underground Research Facility, to unique studies and research, like the work underway on campus to determine how fast fossils erode once they are exposed to the elements.

"None of this research was possible before this instrument," says Sarah Keenan, Ph.D., assistant professor of geology and geological engineering at Mines. "Previously, the nearest instrument of this type was 300 miles away, and you can't send a student that far away with their water samples for a week and expect them to bring back data." Keenan and Beeler are also incorporating the Dionex ICS-6000 into their classes to give students a chance at hands-on learning with cutting-edge scientific equipment.

The Dionex ICS-6000 is part of a suite of instruments, including many in the university's EMES, that are available for broad research use by members of the public, academia and industry.