The origin of the Institute of Materials Processing began in the rich mining history of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. During the 1840s the first mining boom in the United States began when Douglass Houghton, the State Geologist of Michigan gave his report about the rich native copper deposits of the Keweenaw (Key Weh Naw) Peninsula, a strip of land jutting 70 miles out into Lake Superior. Prospectors flocked from all over the world to start exploring these resources. Iron ore mining also began in the 1840 decade in the Marquette Range in the central Upper Peninsula. Several hundred copper and iron mines were developed, eventually producing over a billion tons of iron ore and several billion pounds of copper.
During the early years of the mining boom a small mining school was born in Houghton to provide the mines with engineers in the 1860s. The Michigan School of Mines was formally established in 1885. It expanded to become the Michigan College of Mines by 1897, and in 1927 grew to become the Michigan College of Mining and Technology, gaining full university status in 1964 as Michigan Technological University. Michigan Tech grew as the mining industry grew, and strong professional relationships in mining engineering, mineral processing, metallurgy and other engineering fields developed between the university and industries that extended far beyond the Michigan mining districts.
Back in 1927 the Mineral Research Bureau came into existence with an annual appropriation of funding that was appropriated by the state to study the copper and iron resources of Upper Michigan. This was expanded in 1941 to include industrial research. In 1951, the Michigan Legislature passed Act 272 of the Public Acts of 1951 providing for the "construction of a building and purchase of research equipment adequate for the purpose of engaging in a broad, widespread study of the beneficiation of low-grade ore, of ore dressing, and the problems of metallurgy."
In August 1955 a new building was completed on campus to house the Bureau. The Ores Research Building was later renamed the Benedict Laboratory in honor of C. Harry Benedict who served as the chief metallurgist of a copper producer and for many years he was a respected professor of metallurgy at Michigan Tech. After 1955 the Mineral Research Bureau became known as the Institute of Mineral Research. The IMR was involved in many materials and minerals projects from all around the world as well as continuing to serve Michigan, helping to develop new industrial processes and improve the efficiency of existing processes. When the higher grade iron ores were becoming less accessible, the IMR played a major role in developing the beneficiation processes for the lower grade iron ores that have kept the Great Lakes Region as a major iron ore producer.
As the Institute's activities expanded to include advanced materials engineering and processing, such as hydrometallurgy, mechanical alloying, ceramics, composites, and solid waste processing and recycling, the institute was renamed in 1985 to become the Institute of Materials Processing, reflecting the broader scope of research. In the early 1990's the Benedict Laboratory was incorporated into the new Minerals & Materials Engineering Building, a $47.7 million research facility in use by IMP since 1991.
IMP has the capabilities to draw from its large inventory of traditional mineral and material processing equipment as well as the resources and expertise to plan, develop and fabricate new equipment for innovative processing. IMP offers its expertise in all phases of industrial engineering design, through the whole planning and development progression, from lab experimentation, to batch runs and to pilot plant testing. The history of IMP is filled with examples of helping new industrial start-ups and helping to solve problems that were encountered by existing industries.
If you have a new industrial project you would like try out or if you are having problems with an old one, contact the Institute of Materials Processing.