The Michigan Engineer News Center

Asteroid mining: Is it worth it?

The task of selecting promising asteroids and traveling to them is the first step in a complicated and vastly expensive operation.| Short Read

We met Professor Alec Gallimore, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education at the Angell Hall Observatory to discuss the challenges and opportunities related to asteroid mining. The task of selecting promising asteroids and traveling to them is the first step in a complicated and vastly expensive operation. Precious metals, water and enabling deep space exploration are a few of the key motivators. In the long run, experts say space is going to be key to our advancement as a species. Asteroids may be our interstellar stepping stones along this path, and we’re already on the way.

About the Professor

Alec D. Gallimore is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. As Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education in the College of Engineering, and a member of the Applied Physics graduate program, Professor Gallimore’s primary research interests lie in the Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Lab (PEPL). His research includes electric propulsion, plasma diagnostics, space plasma simulation, electrode physics, nano-particle energetics and hypersonic aerodynamics/plasma interaction. He has extensive design and testing experience with a number of electric propulsion devices including Hall thrusters, ion thrusters, RF thrusters, microwave thrusters, arcjets, 100-kW-class steady MPD thrusters and multimegawatt pulsed coaxial plasma accelerators. He has implemented a variety of probe, microwave, and optical/laser plasma diagnostics, and has graduated 35 PhD students and 11 MS students in the fields of electric propulsion and plasma physics.

Portrait of Kim Johnson


Kimberly Johnson
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The electrons absorb laser light and set up “momentum combs” (the hills) spanning the energy valleys within the material (the red line). When the electrons have an energy allowed by the quantum mechanical structure of the material—and also touch the edge of the valley—they emit light. This is why some teeth of the combs are bright and some are dark. By measuring the emitted light and precisely locating its source, the research mapped out the energy valleys in a 2D crystal of tungsten diselenide. Credit: Markus Borsch, Quantum Science Theory Lab, University of Michigan.

Mapping quantum structures with light to unlock their capabilities

Rather than installing new “2D” semiconductors in devices to see what they can do, this new method puts them through their paces with lasers and light detectors. | Medium Read