INL and Colorado School of Mines strengthen research relationship

February 1, 2024, 12:00PMNuclear News

Idaho National Laboratory announced on January 31 that it is expanding its research partnership with the Colorado School of Mines (Mines). Representatives from the two institutions signed a memorandum of understanding in October that outlines a framework for collaboration on research into energy storage, high-temperature fuel cells, geothermal energy systems, the nuclear fuel cycle and reactor engineering, environmental science, and next-generation mining science and engineering.

Left to right, Travis McLing, co-lead for critical mineral research at Idaho National Laboratory; Mike Kaufman, director of materials and energy initiatives at Colorado School of Mines; and Thomas Albrecht-Schoenzart, chemistry professor at Colorado School of Mines.

Complementary research: The MoU, which covers a period of five years, is meant to take advantage of complementary aspects of the research being conducted at the institutions, according to Travis McLing, co-lead for critical mineral research at INL, and Mike Kaufman, director of materials and energy initiatives at Mines.

Commenting on the agreement, McLing noted, “At INL we have the technology, with remote sensors and machine learning. Colorado School of Mines is the institution that allows INL to take cutting-edge science and apply it to the actual rock. We don’t have a mine ourselves, but Colorado School of Mines is a global leader.”

Kaufman observed, “There’s tremendous overlap in research focus at our two institutions, from generating hydrogen through high-temperature electrolysis using process heat from microreactors to addressing the challenges we face in finding, extracting, and processing critical materials for the energy transition.”

Joint appointment: In line with the MoU, Mines chemistry professor Thomas Albrecht-Schoenzart, whose research focuses on the bonding and reactions of actinide materials, received a joint appointment with INL. His actinide research will be associated with INL’s Glenn T. Seaborg Institute, which, in addition to being a major center of actinide research, provides education and training in actinide science.

Mutual benefit: The expanded and strengthened relationship between INL and Mines is expected to help the school better apply nuclear energy research to mining processes and to help the laboratory gain more practical experience with mine operations. Furthermore, the institutions hope that the professor’s joint appointment will encourage more young researchers to consider internships, graduate fellowships, postdoctoral appointments, and career positions at INL, as well as encourage INL staff, interns, and postdocs to consider working at Mines.

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