Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Information from deep underground in a matter of seconds

21.12.2010
Continued growth in global output is pushing up demand for minerals, whilst imbalances in supply and demand are making the efficient use of natural resources an ever more important consideration. Current mining techniques for minerals cannot always guarantee the optimal exploitation of deposits, which causes the costs and time taken for mining to rise. Mining companies want a quick and reliable way to analyze potential reserves. The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT has now developed a system that is suitable for mining, which uses laser analysis to identify rock in real time.

The most common methods for mining mineral reserves are drilling, blasting and cutting. In order to decide which areas are worth mining, a mine operator needs to be able to model the deposit accurately, showing where, at what depth and at what concentration the desired ore is to be found. This not only avoids the pointless mining of worthless rock, it also saves the mine operator time and money in resource extraction.


The laser analyzer in use on a drilling rig. Photo acknowledgment: Institute for Mining and Metallurgy Machinery at RWTH Aachen.

Currently, the information required for the detailed modeling of a deposit is collected by core drilling: a core sample is taken from underground and sent to a laboratory, and the composition of the drilled rock is then determined using X-ray flourescence (XRF) analysis. The mine operator has to wait three to five days to receive the information. This method is the state of the art.

Because core drilling is time-consuming, mining companies are keen to see the development of a quicker analysis method that still offers sufficiently detailed information. As part of the InnoNet project OFUR – Online Analysis for Minerals Extraction – funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi), researchers from Fraunhofer ILT, in collaboration with the Institute for Mining and Metallurgy Machinery at RWTH Aachen University and seven partners from industry, have developed a robust demonstrator with an inline analysis module for use in mining. This directly analyzes rock as it is drilled: a 10-centimeter-diameter hole is drilled up to 24 meters deep into the rock using a conventional drilling rig that has been fitted with the analysis module. The system measures the chemical composition of the rock during drilling and makes the evaluated data available immediately. »The challenge of this project was to redesign the laser sensors so that they could withstand the operating conditions,« says Dr. Cord Fricke-Begemann, who heads up the Materials Analysis group at Fraunhofer ILT. »We’ve managed to develop measuring apparatus that can cope with extremes of temperature, strong vibrations, and high levels of moisture and dust.«

Real-time multi element analysis

The analysis method used is laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS): the rock dust is drawn up to the surface through a hose and separated out by particle size using a cyclone. The mixture of dust and air travels through the hose at speeds of up to 20 meters per second, but it is during this journey that the actual analysis – which takes no more than 20 microseconds – is done. A high-energy laser pulse is focused on the passing dust particles. These are first vaporized and then turned into a plasma by the heat of the laser. For a brief period, the plasma radiates at a frequency that is specific to the elements it contains. The spectrometer simultaneously detects the radiation emitted by all the elements, and these data are sent to a computer for evaluation. During analysis, the laser pulse hits particles that are made up of different elements, and results are averaged for very short time periods. This provides useful information about the overall composition of the rock, whilst the chronology of the data sequence shows how the deposit is layered.

The decisive advantage of this method is its enormous time saving. Since the data are evaluated and presented in a matter of seconds, the mine operator can determine the quality of a deposit immediately and adjust the mining process accordingly. So far, this method has been used to detect magnesium, calcium, silicon, iron and aluminum. The researchers in Aachen have set themselves the challenge of soon being able to detect copper and other metals using a different spectrometer.

In the long term, this real-time procedure for multi element analysis should make it possible to automate extraction machinery. The Materials Analysis group and its partners have worked up a concept for how the system could be fitted to underground shearer loaders. Above ground, the demonstrator could be fitted to drilling rigs used for extracting mineral deposits. The inline analysis enables continuous quality control and rolling updates to the modeling of the deposit. Work has already begun on a follow-up project which aims to make the analysis system fit for industrial application. Drilling rigs with laser analysis capability would be a unique selling point for the medium-sized companies involved in the project and would open up new sales potential for them.


Contacts at Fraunhofer ILT
Our experts are happy to answer any questions:
Dr. rer. nat. Cord Fricke-Begemann
Materials Analysis
Tel. +49 241 8906-196
cord.fricke-begemann@ilt.fraunhofer.de
Dr. rer. nat. Reinhard Noll
Laser Measurement Technology
Tel. +49 241 8906-138
reinhard.noll@ilt.fraunhofer.de
Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT
Steinbachstrasse 15
52074 Aachen
Tel. +49 241 8906-0
Fax. +49 241 8906-121

Axel Bauer | Fraunhofer Institut
Further information:
http://www.ilt.fraunhofer.de

Further reports about: Analysis Gold Mining ILT information technology

More articles from Process Engineering:

nachricht Etching Microstructures with Lasers
25.10.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT

nachricht Applying electron beams to 3-D objects
23.09.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Organische Elektronik, Elektronenstrahl- und Plasmatechnik FEP

All articles from Process Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>