Sensor Instrumentation to Improve Safety in U.S. Underground Coal Mines

Coal mining is recognized as a dangerous undertaking. Explosions of gases that may exist underground (e.g. methane) and of fine coal dust mixed with air are well-known hazards, in addition to which are unexpected structural collapses. This project is aimed at creating real-time sensors to determine the “inertness” of the mine atmosphere, and communication of the information from inside the mine to safety personnel.

Measuring the inertness of a mine currently involves off-site analysis and takes up to 2 weeks. In this project we propose a two-pronged technical approach.

Sensors

Designing and testing sensors that measure the inertness of the coal dust resulting from the established technique of depositing non-combustible limestone granules that mix with the coal dust in the mine. This part of the project is being carried out under Professor Igor Paprotny at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Communications

Engineering wireless sensor networks (WSNs) that operate in conjunction with the conventionally used communication means and operation (such as fiber optic links) to bring sensor data to the mine safety monitoring facility. Problems to be solved include: real-time evaluation of inertness, reliability of sensor data transmission in the presence of moving metallic equipment, and obtaining sufficient power for effective communication. This aspect of the project is being investigated by BMI.

Researchers

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