Taxonomy term


Mineral Resource of the Month: Germanium

Germanium is a grayish-white, hard, brittle element with electrical properties between those of a metal and an insulator. Germanium is metallic in appearance and is consumed as a pure metal or in compound form, depending on the application. Germanium is never found as a pure metal in nature, but trace amounts occur in many minerals, including common metallic ore minerals such as the zinc mineral sphalerite. Zinc smelters produce the majority of the world’s supply of germanium. Germanium is also recovered from fly ash produced by the burning of certain types of coal.

14 Jun 2010

Mineral Resource of the Month: Sulfur

Sulfur is one of the few solid elements that are found in elemental form in nature, and it has been used in industrial processes since ancient times. The Egyptians used sulfur compounds to bleach fabric as early as 2000 B.C.; the ancient Greeks used sulfur as a disinfectant; and the Romans used it in pharmaceutical applications. When the Chinese developed gunpowder in the 13th century, sulfur was an essential component. The Industrial Revolution expanded demand for sulfur used in the production of sulfuric acid, an essential component of myriad industrial processes.

14 Jun 2010

Down to Earth With: Katerina Dontsova

Soil scientist Katerina Dontsova didn’t imagine she would be working at one of the nation’s most famous laboratories when she arrived at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., from the Ukraine as an undergraduate exchange student in 1993. But after earning a doctorate in soil chemistry from Purdue and working as a contractor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Mississippi, Dontsova did just that, landing a job at Biosphere 2, outside Tucson, Ariz., in 2008.

01 Jun 2010

Down to Earth With: Todd Hoefen

On any given day, you might find Todd Hoefen studying the material properties of other planets, building remote sensing applications, sampling dust from the rubble of natural and human-made disasters, or playing drums with the members of his former rock band, Oakhurst.

22 May 2010

Energy Notes: January 2008-2009

Oil and petroleum imports data are preliminary numbers taken from the American Petroleum Institute’s Monthly Statistical Report. For more information visit

20 May 2010

Benchmarks: May 18, 1952: Stonehenge's age solved with Carbon-14

Like sentinels standing guard over a millennia-old secret, the 8-meter-tall stones of Stonehenge rise above the rolling green hills of England’s Salisbury Plain. The origin, date and purpose of the arrangement of the giant standing stones, located about 145 kilometers west of London, have puzzled people for thousands of years. But in 1952, physical chemist Willard Libby, a professor at the University of Chicago in Illinois, finally provided a concrete answer to one of the site’s most enduring questions: when it was built. To do this, Libby used a brand-new geochemical technique that he had been developing based on the radioactive isotope carbon-14. Only a few years later, his work on this groundbreaking technique earned him a Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

18 May 2010

Benchmarks: April 1, 1877: Prospector begins search for Tombstone's silver

On April 1, 1877, Ed Schieffelin arrived at Fort Huachuca in southeastern Arizona. Schieffelin, a prospector who had tried his luck all across the West, came to the desert looking for untapped riches. The soldiers at the fort warned him that the only thing he’d find was his own tombstone. But by Aug. 1, Schieffelin found what he was looking for: silver. He named his first mining claim Tombstone.

22 Apr 2010

Energy Notes: December 2008-2009

Oil and petroleum imports data are preliminary numbers taken from the American Petroleum Institute’s Monthly Statistical Report. For more information visit

20 Apr 2010

Mineral Resource of the Month: Salt

Salt, also known as sodium chloride, is a compound that contains 39.34 percent sodium and 60.66 percent chlorine by weight. Sodium is a silver-colored metal that is so unstable that it reacts violently in the presence of water; chlorine is a greenish-colored gas that is dangerous and may be lethal. Yet the combination of these two elements forms a mineral that is essential to life itself — and is perhaps the only mineral that is used by every human. 

14 Apr 2010

Down to Earth With: Andrew Feustel

When NASA astronaut Andrew (Drew) Feustel was a student at Oakland Community College in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., he was so interested in cars that he considered pursuing automotive design. Luckily for the Hubble Space Telescope, he took a different path, becoming one of the key astronauts in last May’s successful Hubble repair mission.


01 Apr 2010