Machine for more effective hard rock drilling operations
An electromagnetic energy device to transform hard rock to soft rock with applications in mining conditions and equipment longevity.
During mineral extraction one of the main sources of lost value is the difficulty to remove the rock and the breakdown of worn equipment. Softening the rock before tunnel boring machines (TBM) mechanically break the rocks has always been desired, but none of the processes have consistently added overall value to a mining operation. Flame torches attached to TBMs, for example, are economical but have high fuel consumption and emit undesirable fumes. Microwave energy has been a very intriguing option since introduced in the 1960s, but none of the approaches taken thus far have proven to be economically feasible.
For rock breaking operations, non-optimized microwaves did not maximize the effect of thermal expansion, or alternatively required high power input and were not a viable option. By optimizing the source and target of electromagnetic power, this technology has the opportunity to become a very useful preconditioning treatment of hard rock before drilling. Based on experimental tests, attaching this microwave energy as an antenna to the front of a TBM will essentially transform hard rock into soft rock, lowering equipment maintenance and energy requirements. A major benefit to the lower minimum energy input is that equipment mass can be reduced, which opens opportunities for drilling operations in space and other difficult drilling conditions.
- Lowers the required force to break rock in mining operations
- Decreased energy input allows overall mass of the equipment to be reduced
- Transforms hard rock into soft rock, reducing equipment wear