INCREASING THE SAFETY OF COAL MINERS
steel, with a height of 1.5 metres to protect the full body of a miner. A cover plate is robotically attached to the honeycomb core with several hundredwelds. Through dynamic impact testing, the team assessed the energy-absorbing capacity of the panels and found that, evenwith 600 kg of coal dropped from a 5-metre height at a velocity of 9 m/s, the panels could absorb a significant amount of energywithout disintegration. Having demonstrated the effectiveness of the system, the researchers are now in discussionwith coal industry operators and coal industry equipment designers to generate interest in its further development and applications.
The ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Nanoscience-based Construction Material Manufacturing (the NanocommHub) is a multidisciplinary research hub that aims to transform the construction materials industry. Administered byMonash University, the NanocommHub has over 50 partners fromAustralian industry, research and higher education organisations. Chief Investigators, Associate Professor Ting Ren and Professor Alex Remennikov, both based at the University ofWollongong node of the Hub, have beenworking to create a newprotective system for continuous miners in underground coal mines. The project is intended to meet new industry standards that were put in place following a 2014 NewSouthWales coal mining tragedy inwhich two miners died 500metres underground. The men had been operating a continuous mining machine when hundreds of tonnes of coal collapsed on them. This tragedy sparked an investigation that determined that existing protective systems were inadequate, prompting tighter safety regulations. 'We wanted to design a newprotective system that could be installed on continuous miners as the last line of defence after all other mitigating measures fail,' explains Associate Professor Ren. 'Our aimwas to protect people working on these machines against the hazard of coal bursts while building roadways in highly stressed coal seams.' The researchers modelled the impact of ejected coal fragments and devised formulas to predict the dynamic load and kinetic energy of flying coal and the resulting impact on continuous miners. They then developed a prototype protective systemwhich could be readily assembled underground. The system they developed contained a number of energy-absorbing honeycomb panels made of very thin
(Above) Dynamic impact testing of the CM protective panel with a drop hammer system. Credit: Dr Xiaohan Yang. (Right) Credit: iStock.com/SIYAMA9.
EMPOWERING AUSTRALIAN INDUSTRY
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