Sound system signals slope instability

A technique devised by Loughborough University that uses sound to help predict landslides could save hundreds of lives worldwide, if trials are successful.



The Acoustic Real-time Monitoring System gauges the stability of slopes by listening to soil movement. It is hoped that this radical new system will be more sensitive to slope changes and more robust than traditional methods.



Dr Neil Dixon, Senior Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering at Loughborough University, said, “Around the world, lots of people are killed every year in landslides. Slopes are not always monitored but, if there is an indication that a slope may fail, instruments like this may help to give early warning.



“Slope stability can reduce rapidly in a matter of hours or even minutes. A warning five or 10 minutes earlier than is currently possible might be enough to evacuate a block of flats or clear a road, and save lives in the process.”



The device uses a tube inserted into the slope, with a sensor on top to pick up the high frequency sounds that come from moving soil particles underground. The sensor then sends information to a computer that gives a measure of the slope’s stability.



The system is currently being tested using a trial embankment constructed by the University of Newcastle. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is funding the research, which will take three years to complete.