Mine safety and lightning strikes focus of Curtin research

Curtin University is hosting two experts who will conduct research aimed at helping keep mine sites safe from lightning strikes.

Atmospheric physics expert from New Mexico Tech, Richard Sonnenfeld will conduct research for protecting industrial infrastructure from lightning strikes.

George Danko, engineering academic from the University of Nevada, meanwhile, will develop a ‘ground-breaking’ method to monitor air quality inside the mines.

Both scientists will be based at Curtin’s Kalgoorlie and Perth campuses from January to June next year under a Fulbright scholarship.

“Professor Sonnenfeld’s research will reveal how lightning interacts with tall infrastructure and Professor Danko’s development of a ground-breaking method for monitoring air quality inside mines are both of strategic importance to Australia in ensuring the integrity of its key energy and resources infrastructures,” Curtin University vice-chancellor Deborah Terry said.

Sonnenfeld’s research will focus on understanding the attachment of lightning to tall structures, allowing researchers to help improve lightning protection of mine headframes, wind turbines and tall structures in the energy sector.

Danko’s method for monitoring and modelling air quality inside mines will be used to design and operate ventilation systems while conserving energy.

“The early warning system evaluates real‐time atmospheric monitoring signals from a mine and compares them with simulated results from a ventilation model to identify any deviations, thus providing advanced warning for any possible accident, in addition to evaluating cost-saving scenarios,” Danko said.

About 100 of the Fulbright scholarships are awarded every year, enabling US scholars to undertake research at Curtin.

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