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Research project seeks better dust control in underground mines

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Blacksburg, VA — Researchers at Virginia Tech have launched a project aimed at boosting the effectiveness of dust scrubbers in underground mining to enhance dust control and improve miner safety.

In a Dec. 11 press release, Aaron Noble, the project’s primary investigator and an associate professor of mining and minerals engineering at the VT College of Engineering, explains that underground mines use continuous miners – machines with a large cutting wheel on front – to remove layers of coal or rock from the ground.

“Scrubbers are a kind of dust filter integrated into the design of the cutter,” Noble said in the release. “As the machine advances, it generates a lot of its own vibrational energy.”

The researchers, including collaborators from Michigan Tech and Cornell University, want to create a scrubbing system that uses certain machine vibrations to collect more dust particles as it simultaneously cleans itself to prevent excessive particle buildup – allowing it to operate for a longer duration.

 

“If the system is more efficient, then more particles are being taken out of the air, which makes the mine safer for workers,” the release states.

Although heavier dust settles in the mine, respirable dust passes in all directions depending on air flow. Hassan Amini, a VT research scientist with mining and minerals engineering, said in the release that the research team aspires to create a system capable of collecting more than 95% of dust particles.

“Our goal is to design a technology to overcome the challenges of dust collection in mining operations, minimize operation downtimes (increase production rate), and ultimately create a safer and healthier environment for underground mine workers,” Amini said.

The three-year project is being funded by the Alpha Foundation for the Improvement of Mine Health and Safety.

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