Taconite Cloth

Principal Investigator:  Dan Hawk

College of Menominee Nation

Earth our beautiful planet is in peril. As Native Americans we are the caretakers of the land. We must make decisions for the seventh generation. We must step up to the plate and become role models for our children and for the communities in which we live. This microgravity proposal helps address land caretaking and shows our Native kids that STEM technology is within our grasp.  The Menominee Nation is world renown for its sustainable forest1. The College of Menominee Nation2 and the Sustainable Development Institute3 are actively researching ecological restoration-to-sustainability of Taconite iron mine tailing fields in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and upper Michigan. Thousands of acres and millions of tons of tailings are mostly void of vegetation as the “pure” tailing is void of plant nutrients and microbes. At CMN we are researching “what it will take to grow trees in a tailing field; a carbon sequestration, global warming solution”. Through research this includes finding hidden “value” in what people believe is an invaluable waste product.  Fortunately, iron mine tailing is a metamaterial having unique useful characteristics. In addition to carbon sequestration experiments at CMN we added the tailing as aggregate for road construction, deicing agent for bridge construction, active layer for solar cell, comparison for JSC-1A lunar regolith simulant thermal wadi4, and for this proposal creating a magnetic “tailing cloth”. At first glance it seems to be “Batman” technology; creating an electric field to align magnetic cloth to form a hard “Batcape” for armor and winged flight. However, roll-up magnetic (or active layer) cloth along with roll-up carbon5,6 net, and a thin-film conductor equals a roll-out (like carpeting) solar cell. A microgravity experiment on “tailing cloth” would help us characterize the unique properties of the tailing perhaps making the tailing a valuable and readily available commercial product. And, if the Taconite iron mine tailing becomes a useful commercial product the now barren lands can be ecologically restored to sustainability; a global warming solution.




4 Lawrence A. Taylor, Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, University of Tennessee.

5 Pyrogenic Carbon similar to Amazon Black Earth carbon.

6 Scientific American, “Carbon Nanonets”, p76‐]83, May 2007. 

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