“Blood Diamond” was a movie that created enough emotional stir to change political policies. A Juniata student is hoping to create those same political policy changes through her research. Katrina Shughrue ’11 shares information about her research on conflict minerals:
What are conflict minerals?
A conflict mineral is similar to a blood diamond. It is a mineral that is mined in a war-torn country to financially support the war. In my research, the conflict mineral is called columbite-tantalite (“coltan”). It is being mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to support the Second Congo War. Coltan contains Tantulum which is an element used in the capacitors used in cell phones and laptops.
What type of research are you doing with conflict minerals?
I am working with an instrument call Laser-induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS). This instrument is able to determine the elemental composition of a sample and provide a “chemical fingerprint.”
How long have you been doing research?
I started doing research May 2010.
What do you hope to find?
I am hoping to find a way to determine where a mineral originates. Since each mineral should have its own fingerprint, I want to see if LIBS can tell the difference between conflict minerals from the Congo and conflict minerals from other countries in the world.
How will your research benefit others?
I am hoping that the minerals can be distinguished by location. Preliminary results show that samples within North America can be separated by location. If these [minerals] can then be separated from the minerals that are coming from the Congo, we can hopefully stop using coltan from the Congo and stop supporting the war that is taking millions of lives.
-Erin Kreischer’13, Juniata Online Journalist