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Engineers consider landslide sensor

Engineers at Loughborough University are to investigate the development of an early-warning acoustic sensor for the detection of landslides.

Engineers at Loughborough University have received funding to investigate the development of an early-warning acoustic sensor for the detection of landslides, in collaboration with scientists at the British Geological Survey (BGS).

The one-year project, which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, is being led by Dr Neil Dixon, professor of geotechnical engineering. He is working with Dr Matthew Spriggs from Loughborough University, along with Richard Ogilvy and Philip Meldrum from the BGS.

The research is a follow-on from the Acoustic Real-Time Monitoring System (ALARMS) project, which ran from November 2005 to May 2009 and which developed and investigated the performance of a rigorous practical early-warning system for slopes.

'Thousands of people worldwide are killed each year due to slope failures,' said Dixon. 'As well as the human cost in developing countries, where landslides can be caused by acts of nature including earthquakes and severe rainfall, there are also potential economic costs in developed countries. A device such as this would enable the timely maintenance of critical infrastructure.'

Current devices available for the early detection of slope failures are costly and technically limited and the researchers feel that the production of a sensor that is affordable for a wide range of users could save hundreds of lives.

The device gauges the stability of slopes by using a sensor that is able to pick up the high-frequency sounds that come from soil particles moving under the ground.

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