Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New Technology Will Enhance Coal Mine Safety

New technology invented by researchers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will make it easier for coal miners to ensure their safety as they brace the roofs of mine shafts.

Working in coal mines can be backbreaking labor, not to mention dangerous. But a new technology invented by researchers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will make it easier for miners to ensure their safety as they brace the roofs of mine shafts.

The new method involves simple, but specially designed stackable wood braces that are lighter and stronger than conventional wooden blocks used by miners for centuries. Yoginder Paul Chugh, professor of mining and mineral resources engineering in the SIUC College of Engineering, devised the materials, with the help of several others.

The technology, which several area mines are testing, represents a major improvement over bracing and cribbing methods used by miners for more than 200 years, even though it utilizes the same materials and builds on the same concepts involved. If all goes as planned, the new technology will mean more jobs for Southern Illinois, where some lumber yards already are experimenting with manufacturing the devices.

The new braces, called Atlas Cribs, are comprised of a mix of hardwoods and include a main lateral element made from a board with shorter boards nailed on both sides at both ends. The engineered braces hold many advantages over current methods for bracing roofs and seals.

First, Atlas Cribs are much lighter than the traditional 6-inch square blocks of wood miners use now, making it easier for the miners to handle and stack them. Also, the wood grain orientation in the braces make them stronger than the traditional methods. The new brace design also makes it easier to circulate air around the cribs, which could cut down on one of a mine’s biggest operating costs -- circulating fresh air.

“Air has to circulate in a mine to dilute the methane gases and provide fresh air (to breathe),” Chugh explained. “Moving air through a mine is the second largest energy consumer for a mine, next only to the transportation of coal out of the mine. That’s a pretty substantial amount of energy you’re spending on moving air.”

The new cribbing system takes up 41 percent less area than existing ones and may be up to 50 percent more efficient in terms of airflow, Chugh said.

The system’s strength comes from several design factors. First, the contact areas -- the area where the braces touch each other and the load is actually borne -- are equivalent to the traditional systems. This area is about 6 inches square.

Also, the shorter boards that are nailed to both sides of both ends of the lateral board are cut and positioned so that their grain runs vertically between the roof above and the floor of the mine. This axial grain orientation is much stronger than a parallel one.

“When you compress wood in a parallel direction it is very, very soft,” Chugh said. “So our central element has parallel grains, but the grain on the end pieces are axial to the load, and the strength of wood in this direction is about four times larger.”

For example, a traditional crib about 6 feet high will compress 12 to 14 inches under 70 tons of load. The same size crib made of Atlas Cribs will compress just 6 inches under more than twice the load -- 150 tons.

The lighter weight also means lighter work for the miners charged with building the cribs. Several former miners -- Bill Bell, Harrold Gurley and John Pulliam -- worked with Chugh on the design, with that perspective in mind. The new braces weigh 18 pounds, about half what a traditional cribbing timber weighs, meaning they can also work faster.

“Sometimes miners have to carry the timbers a couple of hundred feet before stacking them,” Chugh said. “So this will be easier on their backs.”

The braces are made from readily available hardwoods including oak, sycamore, poplar and hickory. They come in several sizes -- Atlas 100, 200 and 300 -- with various numbers of contact areas that allow for different cribbing configurations depending on the situation. A six-point configuration, for example, will carry 195 tons while a nine-point one would take about 300 tons of load.

Chugh began working on the concept about one year ago, after experimenting with a brace made from manufactured wood products, such as plywood. The economics of that concept did not work out, and driving back from a meeting in Harrisburg, Pa., the idea for an engineered natural hardwood brace took hold.

“I told the team to stop the car, I had an idea here,” Chugh recalled. A year later, several mines are either testing or plan to test the method this summer, he said, using it to brace mine seals, which are critical stability points. At the same time, several local sawmills also are putting in bids to manufacture the braces, which they could then sell under license to mines throughout the Midwest.

The market potential -- and potential to create more local jobs -- is huge, Chugh said.

“One local mining company uses 400,000 of these each year,” Chugh said. “The total demand within Illinois, Indiana and western Kentucky is about 1.5 million a year.”

The initial price the University will provide to the mines is about 3 cents cheaper per brace than the current method.

Tim Crosby | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Architecture and Construction:

nachricht New, forward-looking report outlines research path to sustainable cities
24.01.2018 | National Science Foundation

nachricht Magnetic liquids improve energy efficiency of buildings
16.01.2018 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

All articles from Architecture and Construction >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Development and Fast Analysis of 3D Printed HF Components

19.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

In monogamous species, a compatible partner is more important than an ornamented one

19.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Signaling Pathways to the Nucleus

19.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>