Mining Contract: LiDAR Technology Adaptation to Underground Coal Mines for Float Coal Dust and Rock Dust Mapping Applications
The explosion hazard in coal mines related to float coal dust can be mitigated by distributing the proper concentration of rock dust given the amount of float coal dust being liberated by the mining process. The proposed sensing technology aims to estimate dispersion distances of float coal dust and assess rock dust coverage over large areas. Eventually, it could be used as an input to automated rock dusting equipment to optimize rock dust application.
Contract Status & Impact
This contract is ongoing.
Currently, a real-time measurement technique for float dust does not exist. The implementation of automated and new functionalities in both hardware and software would make existing measurement technology better suited to mapping and visualizing the dispersion of float coal dust in real time. In addition, a technique used to assess adequacies of rock dust along the ribs could obviously help to identify areas where more rock dust is required. The research being performed under this contract is utilizing Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology as a means to achieve these two capabilities.
LiDAR sensing technology is an optical instrument capable of measuring the distance to a target by measuring the light duration round-trip between the instrument and the target using the reflectance and scattering properties of the target material. Because of its sensitivity, LiDAR allows for the mapping of float dust dispersion within both longwall and continuous coal mine entries. Moreover, prior to this contract, a prototype unit using LiDAR technology was successfully demonstrated for measuring dust concentrations in simulated conditions of underground coal mine operations.
The focus for this new work is to achieve a real-time display of the float coal dust dispersion, automating or assisting the deployment of the prototype, and calibrating the prototype for different types of dust (e.g., float coal dust, rock dust). Currently, hardware adaptations have been completed which will allow for the measurement of concentrations of dust across a distance. This information can then be used to determine the amount of dust that is deposited on the surface. Another hardware adaptation will allow the concentration grid to be fused with a picture. In addition, the LiDAR system can now be operated remotely. Preliminary testing at NIOSH has been completed to aid with software adaptations to calibrate the instrument for float dust and to simplify system operation.