The University of Delaware is a Tier 1 Research University (according to the Carnegie Classification) and our program will benefit from the campus-wide resources available in this regard. The Minerals, Materials and Society program will offer research delivery from a vast resource base. Below are some examples of research that are ongoing by faculty members across campus that are relevant to this program.



National Science Foundation Grant on Global Illicit Trade in Energy-Critical Materials using Machine Learning, Remote Sensing, and Qualitative Research

Dr. Julie Klinger has been awarded a new 5 year grant commencing January 2021 from the U.S. National Science for $999,984 titled Characterizing the Global Illicit Trade in Energy-Critical Materials using Machine Learning, Remote Sensing, and Qualitative Research. This research project offers a novel transdisciplinary approach to ongoing efforts to detect, disrupt, and dismantle illicit ECM supply networks by characterizing the global illicit trade in selected ECMs from 2000 – 2020. It integrates methods used in machine learning, remote sensing, and multilingual qualitative research to characterize the global illicit trade in several ECMs: Cobalt, Lithium, Niobium, Platinum Group Metals (PGM), Rare Earth Elements (REE), and Tantalum. Our objectives are to describe the processes through which licit and illicit ECM trade flows converge and how these convergences change over time (the what); to identify the trade relationships that present the greatest irregularities, and to then analyze whether this can be explained by mining activity visible in satellite imagery but not accounted for by official records (the where), and use qualitative research and machine learning to identify correlations and conduct a causal mechanism analysis to identify “the how and the ­why” of changing illicit ECM trade flows while accounting for institutional practices that create opacity and uncertainty.

The interdisciplinary project team includes Dr. Kyle Davis, Dr. Federica Bianco, Dr. Xi Peng, Professor Dawn Fallik, and Dr. Saleem Ali.

For more details contact Dr. Julie Klinger:

Mapping Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining to the Sustainable Development Goals

Pact and the University of Delaware’s Mapping Artisanal and Small-scale Mining to the Sustainable Development Goals (ASM-SDG Policy Assessment) is the first report assessing all positive and negative relationships between artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) and the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Authors: Jorden de Haan, Kirsten Dales, James McQuilken


  • Even in its informal state, ASM makes positive contributions to almost all SDGs, and particularly those concerned with social (SDGs 4, 5 and 10) and economic development (1 and 8), nutrition (2), clean energy, infrastructure, and sustainable cities (7, 9 and 11), adaptation to climate change (13), peace, justice and governance (16), and partnerships (17).
  • ASM has negative impacts on the majority of the SDGs, and particularly those concerned with human health (SDGs 3 and 6), environment (13, 14 and 15), nutrition (2) social development (4, 5 and to some degree, 10), decent work (8), cleaner production (12), and peace, justice and governance (16).
  • Depending on the way it is approached, formalization can help mitigate many of ASM’s negative impacts and amplify its positive impacts on the SDGs.
  • Given the myriad ASM-SDG interlinkages, ASM formalization needs to be planned in an inclusive and comprehensive manner with all 17 SDGs in mind and prioritized as part of post-COVID-19 reconstruction and broader sustainable development efforts.
  • While the SDGs serve as a useful starting point, it remains essential to analyze ASM in relation to national and regional development priorities and integrate the sector into associated policy frameworks.
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Pyrite, metal sulfide and aluminosilicate nanoparticles as kinetically stable sources of iron and other metals to the ocean.

PI: George W. Luther, III, School of Marine Science & Policy

Funding Agency: NSF Marine Geology and Geophysics, OCE-1558712

Unlike minerals which are stabilized in hydrothermal vent chimneys, nanoparticles or nanominerals (size between 1 – 200 nanometers) can be transported great distances from their source. Pyrite and iron-silicate nanoparticles form and emanate from hydrothermal vents. Iron from these materials eventually is uptaken by microbes for metabolic processes essential to their growth. Thus, iron from vents fertilizes the greater ocean.

Checkout our 11-minute highlights video on Youtube of our hydrothermal vent cruise to the East Pacific Rise.

For photos and videos of life aboard ship and at Sea, the cruise blog can be found at

Mineral-Fluid Interactions:  Synchrotron Radiation Studies at the Advanced Photon Source

PI: Neil C.Sturchio, Department of Geological Sciences

Funding Agency: DOE Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Program (via Argonne National Laboratory)

This program seeks to develop a fundamental molecular-scale understanding of mineral–water interface processes that control the geochemical transport and cycling of elements in Earth’s near-surface environment. Processes of interest include adsorption/desorption, growth/dissolution, and oxidation/reduction reactions which play a critical role in controlling the bio-availability of nutrients and the sequestration or transport of toxic metals, radionuclides, and CO2. The program strategy emphasizes direct experimental observations of such geochemical reactions through in situ studies at mineral–fluid interfaces at molecular-scale resolution.

Research: Forced Relocation and Resettlement: Bhil Lives after the Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada River, India

PI: Vikramaditya Thakur, Dept. of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences

This study focuses on the forced displacement and relocation of over four thousand families of Bhils, a hill community in western India, due to one of the largest dams in the world on Narmada River in rural western India. It is informed by fieldwork and archival research.

Pearls for the Crown: European Courtly Art and the Rise of the Pearl Trade, 1498-1728

PI: Mónica Domínguez Torres, Department of Art History, University of Delaware

In the Age of European expansion, pearls became potent symbols of imperial supremacy. Since direct access to the marine gems depended on political domination over remote pearling grounds and over the workforce needed for their extraction, pearls were not only appreciated for their beauty and price, but also because they were perceived as imbued with political meaning. Focusing on selected examples related to the Atlantic pearl industry, the book project Pearls for the Crown examines the interplay between materiality, labor, and consumption that drove artistic production in the early modern period.

Funded by a grant from Tiffany and Co. Foundation, the Gemstone and Sustainable Development Knowledge Hub is the research arm of Minerals, Materials and Society. The Gemstone Knowledge Hub seeks to carry out research and connect with past and existing initiatives across four major themes that have been developed through consultations with industry, academia and gem mining communities. These four themes are:

  • Mining and geology of colored gemstone deposits
  • Processing and manufacturing of colored gemstones
  • Gender analysis of colored gemstone supply chains
  • Economic Development Impact of the colored gemstone sector.

Learn more at

“In a sector with multiple stakeholders and ever-evolving challenges, the importance of sound research, forward-looking solutions and increased understanding among practitioners cannot be overstated. To this end, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation is proud to have supported the establishment of the Gemstone and Sustainable Development Knowledge Hub, which is one of the research arm of the Minerals, Materials and Society program. Through the Hub, industry leaders, academic experts and mining communities can share key findings with each other to help improve the sector through an interdisciplinary approach.”

  • Anisa Kamadoli Costa, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation

Case Studies

Bolivia’s lithium frontier: Can public private partnerships deliver a minerals boom for sustainable development? Link to more details

Pakistan’s Swat Valley Emeralds – Consigned to Oblivion Link to more details

Turkish Diaspore (Csarite) Link to more details

Czech-Poland Transbobundary Mining Conflict Link to more details