Timothy C. Eisele, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Technological University, has been named the first recipient of the Department of Chemical Engineering Endowed Faculty Fellowship. Donations from Michigan Tech’s chemical engineering alumni are funding the fellowship.
Eisele holds a BS, MS and PhD in Metallurgical Engineering, all from Michigan Tech. In his research, he develops bacterial processes for upgrading and extracting iron ores and low-cost reprocessing of industrial wastes such as slags and sludges to recover valuable metals.
“The fellowship will provide me with an opportunity to carry out early-stage proof-of-concept experiments that will lead to externally-funded research projects,” he says.
Removing Phosphorus from Iron Ore
In one ongoing project, Eisele is developing communities of live bacteria to inexpensively dissolve phosphorus from iron ore, allowing a low-phosphorus iron concentrate to be produced.
“Beneficiation plant processing, which treats ore to make it more suitable for smelting, only works if the phosphorus mineral grains are bigger than a few micrometers in size,” Eisele explains. “For finely dispersed phosphorus, until now, there really hasn’t been a technology for removing it.”
Phosphorus is critical to all living organisms. Eisele designed his experiments so that organisms can only survive if they are carrying out phosphorus extraction by using phosphorus-free growth media. “We’ve confirmed that when there is no iron ore added to the media, there is no available phosphorus and no bacterial growth,” he says.
Eisele was first hired in the Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering as a research engineer in 1992. In 2005 he joined the Department of Chemical Engineering. He was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2016. He teaches courses in minerals and particulate processing, hydrometallurgy and pyrometallurgy.
A Great Teacher
“Tim is a great mineral processor, a great teacher, and the students respect and adore him,” says. S. Komar Kawatra, chair of chemical engineering.
Eisele’s other research interests include particulate processing, chemistry and thermodynamics of metals extraction, physical separation processes, sustainable raw materials production, oxidative and reductive bioleaching of metals, and reprocessing of particulate wastes for recovery of valuable components.
Eisele is a member of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME) and the Association for Iron and Steel Technology (AIST).
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.