Researchers build cannon to test seals in coal mines | 7/31/2019 | Staff
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Mining and explosives engineering researchers at Missouri S&T began testing concrete seals used to close coal mine tunnels this month by loading a cannon with projectiles, shooting them at the seals and testing their impact. The research could help to improve the design of seals and keep miners safe.

Dr. Kyle Perry, Missouri S&T associate professor of mining and nuclear engineering, is the lead researcher on the project. Working with him is Ethan Steward, a master's student in explosives engineering from Chelsea, South Dakota. Steward and Perry spent about five months building the 8-foot cannon they're using in the study.

Cannon - Things - Miner - Hat - Water

"We started loading the cannon with light things that a miner might leave behind such as a hard hat, water jug and hand tools," says Perry. "The hard hat and jug didn't do anything to the seals, but the hand tools took a good chunk out of the concrete, and the roof plates put pretty good gouges into the seal."

The researchers use three different cameras to document what happens as the cannon fires the projectiles at the seals. They then slow down the videos to study them. They have a regular camcorder and two Go-Pros that can get closer to the blast because of their small size. Strain gauges on the seals also tell them what the seal experiences during each blast.

Videos - Objects - Perry - Projectile - Strain

"The videos help us tell what objects are impacting first," says Perry. "We can start relating the projectile to the strain the seal is experiencing. There's a lot going on and there's smoke, which makes it hard to see sometimes."

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