March 26, 2009

New method created to find trapped miners

U.S. geologists say they have developed a new method to find miners trapped underground regardless of noise created by emergency workers in the area.

University of Utah Associate Professor Sherif Hanafy, first author of the study, said the method involves installing iron plates and sledgehammers at regular intervals in mines, along with sensitive listening devices on the ground overhead.

Hanafy said the technique records seismic fingerprints generated by a trapped miner banging on the iron plates and uses those fingerprints to locate him.

Each different location in the mine that is banged has a unique fingerprint, added Professor Gerard Schuster, the study's senior author. "We hope to make it easier to find out if miners are alive after a collapse and, if they are alive, where they are located.

It's not guaranteed to work every time but looks promising from the tests we did, he said. This is not rocket science; it's rock science.

The research that included doctoral student Weiping Cao and Professor M.K. McCarter appears in the journal The Leading Edge.