◢ Waste heat recovery
Exhaust from diesel-generated power includes a lot of heat energy, but this potential source of power is lost in the absence of an effective waste heat recovery system. To turn waste heat into a profitable resource, U.S.-based Alphabet Energy recently launched the E1 Thermoelectric Generator. “[Waste heat] has not been valuable to [mining companies] because there really hasn’t been a way to simply and reliably turn that waste heat into something useful,” explained Alphabet Energy CEO Matt Scullin. The industrial-scale thermoelectric generator makes use of Alphabet’s patented silicon and tetrahedrite technology and produces electricity by taking advantage of the heat differential between a diesel generator’s exhaust and the outside air. Using this technology, the E1 can generate up to 25 kilowatt-electric (kWe) per 1,000 kWe of diesel generator capacity, saving 52,500 litres of diesel fuel per year, per engine. Alphabet’s thermoelectric technology is solid-state, meaning there is no rotating machinery or working fluid, and requires minimal upfront engineering and virtually no ongoing maintenance. It can also be installed in two hours, making it ideal for remote locations. Installation simply involves inserting the exhaust pipe of a diesel generator into the E1 generator and in turn connecting the E1 to the site’s main breaker. For now the E1 only pairs with stationary equipment but Alphabet plans to adapt its technology to other applications in the future, such as waste-heat recovery units for trucks.
◢ Explosion-proof light fixtures
Given the darkness of their surroundings, reliable lighting has long been a concern for underground miners. In the dim and cramped spaces of a mine, it is important that all equipment is as durable as possible, including light fixtures. In the interest of offering safe, compact and long-lasting fixtures, Texas-based Larson Electronics has launched a new 150-watt explosion-proof LED light fixture. It is capable of handling 347-480 AC voltages to accommodate the various voltage standards across Canada and the United States. The light weight, low profile and high durability of the product make it an attractive alternative to cumbersome older fixtures. The aluminum alloy body increases the fixture’s resistance to vibration and impact, making the light well suited to a mining environment. This durability also gives the product versatility, and the fixtures can be used throughout a given operation, said Larson spokesperson Rob Bresnahan: “[Miners] can mount it on vehicles, they can mount it on surfaces in the tunnels, and it’s going to last.”
◢ Real-time pressure monitoring
Tire-pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) help mine operators prevent the rubber on their earthmover tires from degrading due to high temperature or incorrect pressure. When a typical TPMS detects a warning sign, it sends that information via a mine site’s communication network, such as wireless network (WiFi), to a base station. However, it is difficult to find a TPMS that integrates well into any given mine’s specific communications configuration because of the multitude of platforms available. Therefore, when Kal Tire re-launched its True Tire Technology TPMS, it provided seven connectivity options including WiFi, 3G cellular, and a 900-megahertz radio frequency network. The system collects data from ball-shaped sensors that are attached to the inside of the tires, detecting the temperature and pressure of the tire chamber. This information is sent to a master communication module where it is then relayed to a base station and accessed online or through downloadable software, allowing mine operators to evaluate the performance of the system across their entire fleet. “[The dashboard] basically shows you everything that’s happening on the system at a glance,” said Mike Batka, Kal Tire’s process, technology and products vice-president. “From that screen, if you click once on any of the icons or any of the trucks, it takes you to exactly where you need to be.” The system also includes GPS tracking that automatically refreshes every 30 seconds.