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Mining Contract: Enhancing Mine Safety via Intrinsically Safe Battery-Powered Wireless Sensor Network

Contract #200-2013-56948
Start Date9/12/2013
Research Concept

Sensing atmospheric gas conditions in underground mines is critical to ensuring a safe working environment. This contract develops a fully wireless, rapidly deployable, atmospheric gas monitoring solution with at least six months’ battery life. The integration of an energy-efficient, wireless mesh network with low-power methane, carbon monoxide, and oxygen atmospheric gas monitors are key developments for this project.

Topic Area

Contract Status & Impact

This contract is ongoing.

Currently, coal operators monitor the mine atmosphere by utilizing, in combination, two approaches: (1) line-powered fixed atmospheric monitors, and (2) portable gas monitors carried by mine personnel. Line-powered atmospheric monitoring systems require electrical line power to operate, making them susceptible to damage from hazards inherent in the mine, while monitors carried by mine personnel only provide information about the environment when mine personnel are present. While battery-powered sensor groups do exist, the current battery life is measured in days only due to the power consumption of the methane gas sensors. In addition to the insufficient battery life of atmospheric monitoring sensors, no technology currently exists that connects existing communications and tracking systems to these sensors for continuous detection of environmental conditions in remote areas of the mine.

Under this contract, Innovative Wireless Technologies, Inc., is developing a battery-powered, long-life methane sensor and a wireless atmospheric gas sensor network by integrating intrinsically safe single-gas or multi-gas monitor(s) with an MSHA-approved wireless communication system to easily deploy atmospheric gas monitoring. The network will provide a comprehensive view of the mine atmospheric gas conditions (such as carbon monoxide, oxygen, and methane levels) to the above-ground mine’s operations center for working areas and select remote areas of the mine. A fully wireless, battery-powered mine-wide gas monitoring system could provide miners with preemptive knowledge of dangerous conditions (such as a mine fire or explosion) throughout the mine to promote safety and improve operations.