Research at 1:1 Scale
Numerous research projects with research and industrial partners require a research centre of this scale. The following projects provide a brief insight into our activities.
Terrorism becomes a more and more complex challenge to the security forces due to the particular exposure of human lives to threats in underground infrastructure. The Tokyo subway sarin attack of 1995 with the death of 13 people and 6000 left injured demonstrated that these attacks in railway, motorway and metro tunnels aim at causing a big number of life loss, casualties and wide spread panic. The objective of NIKE-SubMoveCon is to develop essential research results for strategies even against terrorists in situ using a multi-disciplinary approach which applies automated multisensory analysis, assistance systems as well as sociology of individuals and groups. This approach shall enable the generation of a common operational picture in real time which optimizes the operational command of the police, COBRA, army, rescue organization and fire brigade and hence substantially improves the safety of involved civil persons as well as personnel of the emergency services.
The aim of ROBO-MOLE is to create increased safety for emergency services and affected civilians during operations in tunnels and other underground structures through the detection and identification of hazardous substances and automatic situation map creation and to enable an efficient operational sequence. For example, an accident in the transport of dangerous goods in a tunnel presents emergency organizations with major and dangerous challenges due to heat, structural hazards, smoke or released hazardous substances. That is why a semi-autonomous robot is designed for supporting analysis tasks, which is equipped with a wide range of sensors (position-giving, imaging and detecting hazardous substances). These are combined to enable safe navigation and control of the robot under difficult conditions (smoke, obstructed routes, heat, ...) and to be able to detect and map hazards.
In order to grout and strengthen the rock mass, tunnelling might necessitate reinforcement ahead of the tunnel face like grouting. Since these measures diminish the excavation speed their efficient design is essential. Injection material, parameters and abort criterion are adjusted to the rock mass in situ which are readapted in case of need. Digital systems of data recording are mainly used in documentation for quality management purposes. In the project AVANT, this data should be exploited to render tunnelling and grouting measures involved more efficient and economic. The core concept is the processing and optimization of the construction workflow at an early stage in the underground environment instead of the sole archiving for documentation purposes. The utilization of methods of artificial intelligence will pursue several objectives e.g., to characterize the grouting parameters of the rock mass using drilling data, to estimate the reach of the grouting measures on the basis of typical pressure and quantity curves and to provide expert knowhow for inexperienced operators in a knowledge database.
Complex operations underground are characterized by a lack of lighting and ventilation, the environmental conditions in a widely ramified infrastructure and a hybrid acting, proactive opponent and quickly push the emergency services to their performance limits with increasing depth of penetration. In such a scenario, underground orientation is essential. Due to the multi-dimensional branching of underground structures as well as the restricted view and the resulting difficulties in orientation, the exact positioning of one's own forces is vital.
Vehicles with alternative fuels and drive systems will be increasingly used for climate and environmental reasons. However, the behaviour of such vehicles in accidents under fire is still largely unexplored. This research project aims to significantly improve the state of knowledge about the development, consequences and risks of fires in vehicles with alternative drive systems. This is necessary in order to maintain the existing safety standard of the road infrastructure (mainly road tunnels) and to enable emergency services (fire brigade, but also rescue and first aid) to assess dangerous situations.
Austria has a large amount of underground infrastructure such as road or railway tunnels, underground stations and tunnels, underground energy supply facilities, water supply and disposal facilities, communication infrastructure, underground mining facilities, underground car parks, mountain railways and similar. In the case of road tunnels alone, a total of 164 tunnels with a length of 383 km are currently in operation, and in the case of railway tunnels there are 246 installations with a total length of 254 km. The fire catastrophes in Kaprun, in the Mont Blanc and Tauern tunnels, but also terrorist attacks such as those in the London and St. Petersburg underground railways and, last but not least, the Lassing mine accident, support the need to intensify efforts to ensure safety.
The goals are increasing safety in underground structures both during the construction and the operating phase. These events also highlight the need for a cross-disciplinary collaboration and further development of competencies for handling operations in underground infrastructures.
For this reason, the consortium brings together the most important organisations and infrastructure operators involved in events in underground infrastructures in order to pool existing emergency competencies in the areas of prevention, post-event management and safety optimisation of such infrastructures.
As part of the research project NIKE (NIKE stands for Sustainable Interdisciplinarity in Complex Operations Underground), the Austrian Armed Forces are involved in an interdisciplinary approach with procedures for coping with complex underground operations, carrying out the necessary training and developing a VR-compatible 3D environment for operations management and training. The Zentrum am Berg offers the ideal research, development and training platform. The partnership between the Armed Forces Command and the Montanuniversität Leoben enables an optimal exchange within the framework of experimental skill development.
The RICAS2020 design study for the European underground research infrastructure related to Advanced Adiabatic Compressed Air Storage (AA-CAES) will provide concepts for the construction of a research infrastructure for the underground storage of very large amounts of green energy. The great advantage of the new concepts is that underground energy storage can be carried out independently of geological conditions and also at all locations with high energy requirements.
RICAS2020 is being built as an extension of the research infrastructure research at Zentrum am Berg.
In the near future, the European civil engineering industry is expected to extract some 800 million tonnes of mineral resources from tunnels, underground railways and other underground structures such as underground power stations, sewage tunnels, etc. Currently, this excavated material is usually disposed of in landfills. Efficient use on site or in other industrial sectors is therefore of great economic and ecological interest.