Quantitative Methane Plume Imager for Localization and Flow Rate Estimation in Mines

Physical Sciences Inc (PSI) has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to address a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) mission objective for an innovative solution that provides practical methods to identify and measure hazards at a reasonable cost in high-risk occupations (e.g. mining).

The mining industry presents particularly challenging safety and health needs. Despite well-regulated safety procedures, accidental explosions and toxic gas inhalation events continue to occur. To help protect miners, technologies are needed that sense and measure, from a distance, concentrations of explosive or other life-threatening hazards including methane (CH4), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and dust. These technologies can warn miners of immediately dangerous conditions within or prior to entering potentially hazardous areas.

Laser-based technologies, such as the widely-deployed backscatter Tunable Diode Laser Absorption Spectroscopy (TDLAS) developed and commercialized by PSI for natural gas leak surveying using handheld laser tools, enable sensing explosive or toxic environments from afar by safely illuminating the region of interest with a laser beam. In previous NIOSH/CDC/OMHSR research, PSI has demonstrated the use of this technology to detect areas of high methane concentrations along mine wall faces. Recently, we developed the ability to utilize this technology to create quantified images of small methane plumes, and to utilize the quantitative information to deduce the plume flux (i.e. emission flow rate). In this project, PSI will evaluate our capability to visualize and quantify potentially hazardous methane emission sources, as well as detect stagnant methane pockets in coal mines. The novel tools will enable warning of immediately dangerous conditions prior to miners entering a hazardous area as well as continuous inspection for explosive gas accumulations during cutting of mine face walls.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Shin-Juh Chen
Group Leader, Industrial Sensors
Physical Sciences Inc.
Telephone: (978) 689-0003