Texas State, Stratajam land NSF grant to reduce mineral exploration costs

Research & Innovation

Jayme Blaschke | August 10, 2022

large mining machinery

Texas State University, in partnership with Stratajam, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant to develop an innovative process to cut mineral exploration costs.

The $256,000 grant will support research on a real-time mineral data collection and identification module, which will incorporate machine learning and a unique sensor package to analyze the walls of mineral exploration and geotechnical boreholes and report the results in real time to the customer using a secure web portal. 

The equipment is designed to cut mineral exploration and geotechnical drilling costs as well as reduce the environmental impact of such exploration. It will provide accurate and instantaneous results needed for important decision-making in the mining and construction industries.

Semih Aslan, associate professor in the Ingram School of Engineering, will serve as principal investigator (PI) for Texas State, with Damian Valles, assistant professor in the Ingram School of Engineering, serving as Co-PI. James Stark will serve as PI for Stratajam. Stark is currently a graduate student at Texas State, pursing a master’s in engineering.  

“Texas State University welcomes the news, and as partners in this research, we will contribute resources and our expertise to the success of the project,” Aslan said.

Instead of conventional core drilling, this novel approach will acquire subsurface chemistry and geotechnical properties of rocks and soils in brownfield or greenfield mining operations. It will utilize a combination of optical images, sensor data, open-source geospatial data and other databases to assess the type and value of mineral reserves both quickly and accurately.

The project partnership leverages industry expertise and demand validation by companies active in mining and exploration with the technology and research capabilities of Texas State and the industry experience and innovation achievement of the start-up company Stratajam.

Once a small business is awarded a Phase I SBIR/STTR grant it becomes eligible to apply for a Phase II grant of up to $1 million. Small businesses with Phase II funding are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in additional matching funds with qualifying third-party investment or sales.

“NSF is proud to support the technology of the future by thinking beyond incremental developments and funding the most creative, impactful ideas across all markets and areas of science and engineering,” said Andrea Belz, director of the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships at NSF. “With the support of our research funds, any deep technology startup or small business can guide basic science into meaningful solutions that address tremendous needs.”

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For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922