The German-Swiss company RST has designed and developed two radar systems that can detect cracks in the walls and roofs of mines.
The company's so-called Crack Identification System (CRIS) is targeted for use at hard rock mines, while its Potash Roof Inspection System (PRIS) can be deployed at potash mines.
Both systems are based directly on the GINGER (Guidance and Into-the-Ground Exploration Radar) radar that the company originally developed in conjunction with the European Space Agency (ESA) to investigate soil structure on the moon and other planets.
But to retarget the technology for uses closer to home some modifications were necessary. 'We have changed the operating frequencies to target cracks and structural weakness in mines,' explained Yvonne Krellmann, RST Project Manager.
The radar systems have already been successfully tested in several mines in Ontario, Canada, as well as in several potash mines. The mines are especially vulnerable to cracks, as they are located about one kilometre under ground. The immense pressure of the rock’s weight combined with certain properties of salt incorporated in the rock can cause the rooms in the mine to deform and consequently to crack.
'Efforts to improve mine safety could, in the near future, include equipping mining machines with ground penetration radars, which are faster and more efficient at detecting weakness in mineshaft walls than visual inspection,' said RST's Hans Martin Braun.
The technology could also be transferred to many other applications. A German-Swiss inspection firm is interested in transferring the technology to the street and tunnel maintenance business. Bearing in mind that Switzerland alone has 1600km of tunnels, with 500 more under construction, the sector could represent quite a commerical opportunity.
For more details, vist the ESA's Technology Transfer Programme Office.