I-Corps: An Emergency Electro-Mechanical Communication System for Underground Tunnels and Mines

Project Details


The broader impact/commercial potential of this I-Corps project is the development of an emergency communication technology for underground tunnels. Underground tunnels have numerous uses worldwide, ranging from the mining industry to transportation via subways and railroad tunnels. Disastrous events underground are common, especially in the mining industry. Current communication technologies include wired phones and local WiFi modems in underground tunnels and mines. However, existing solutions that are operative under normal conditions often fail to operate during emergencies due to collapsed roofs, broken cables, power outages, or network failures. Communication using radio wave-based technologies such as cell phones is not a viable solution when hundreds to thousands of meters underground when trying to pass through collapsed walls and rocks. The proposed technology may provide a lifeline between the rescue workers and the trapped individuals deep underground in catastrophes.This I-Corps project is based on the development of a data communication technology using mechanical waves and existing infrastructures in underground tunnels when current methods fail to work. To maximize the likelihood of survival of people trapped deep underground, under unusual and life-threatening conditions, development of an electro-mechanical communication system is proposed as a new suite of communication devices. This proposed technology utilizes the existing pipelines in tunnels and mines as the medium for communication. These pipelines have a much lower likelihood of failure during catastrophes. Such infrastructures are less likely to break in catastrophic events. The proposed technology is based on research that shows that in addition to mechanical acceleration channels in solids, there also is a mechanical strain channel that may be used for communication. The strain communication channel is formulated based on the fractional particle displacement parameter. This is the amount of local displacement of a solid particle when exposed to mechanical vibrations. This channel has shown to offer superior communication performance compared to other channels. Given the need for a reliable communication link between rescue workers and people trapped underground, the market may be ready for the new technology.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date3/15/218/31/23


  • National Science Foundation: $50,000.00


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