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Researcher May Improve Mine Communication


Ryerson University researcher Xavier Fernando is developing technology to make reliable wireless communication possible in underground mines.

Ryerson University researcher Xavier Fernando is developing technology to make reliable wireless communication possible in underground mines.

Optic-fibers technology, called ROF, provides enough bandwidth to handle and maintain signals underground. Moreover, optical fibers are readily available and remain unaffected by electromagnetic interference or radiation commonly emitted by mining equipment.

ROF is used presently to provide wireless-communication access to the $985 million Niagara Tunnel, a massive hydroelectricity project. It also played a role in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, where the wireless network was able to support 500,000 phone calls during the opening ceremonies.

In the mining industry, ROF technology can help officials identify miners and continuously track their movements. Thus, in the event of a collapse, determining where each miner is located would be easier.

While ROF technology offers many solutions, it also presents a problem: since fiber-optic communication lines are not linear, signals can be scattered, creating distortion at the receivers. Fernando has created and holds a patent for an algorithm that almost entirely compensates for the distortion. He partnered with Mine Radio Systems.

To the same end, Fernando also is investigating a system of Through-the-Earth signaling. Unlike higher-frequency communications, the ultra-low frequencies used in TTE technology (approximately 10 kilohertz) can penetrate water and rock.

ìWith this technology, officials could still maintain communication with a miner who is trapped and is likely covered by dirt and rocks, Fernando said.î