From Tailings To Solar Energy

By KBJR News 1

October 18, 2011 Updated Oct 18, 2011 at 6:19 PM CST

Coleraine, MN (Northlands NewsCenter)
-- In Coleraine Minnesota, The University of Minnesota-Duluth's Natural Resources Research Institute has found a way to turn trash into treasure.

By trash, I mean the tailings leftover from taconite mining.

Little scraps that usually just take up space into something both practical and appealing to the eyes.

It takes 2,800 degrees of heat to transform what's left over from taconite mining; something that usually is just dumped or dropped into a lake into something that has some real use, and real potential to change your home, or business in a couple of ways.

Tiles, made from the taconite tailings, the brainchild of Kyle Baratholomew.

"One of the ideas we had was, would this material absorb solar energy well. The tiles are very black so they have a natural tendency to heat up in the sun"

Barthlolomew has been testing this theory and has found it effective, finding that air flowing into a 5 by 9 wall of these panels can double in temperature, an effective and environmentally friendly source of space heating.

But that's not all.

"Like I said the tiles have an unique look to them and we have exploring with a partner company different ways we can use these tiles for decorative or artistic purposes"

From flower pots to end tables, the molds are popping out as fast as Barthlolmew can produce them.

The project is bringing recognition to the Mineral lab, and driving potential economic growth.

"We're always interested with coming up with new products which would involve advancing new jobs in the state and deriving more economic development with the use of these processes"

The Lab has also experimented with using the taconite tailings to fill in pot holes, saying the specialized chemistry is much more durable than the traditional method.

Written for the web by: Zach Vavricka
zvavricka@northlandsnewscenter.comColeraine, MN (Northlands NewsCenter)