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20 June 2006 PR 06/73

New landslide technology may save lives

A pioneering new technique devised by Loughborough University to help predict landslides could save hundreds of lives worldwide, if trials are successful.

The Acoustic Real-time Monitoring System gauges the stability of slopes by listening to soil movement. It is hoped that this radical new system will be more sensitive to slope changes and more robust than traditional methods.

Dr Neil Dixon, Senior Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering at Loughborough University, said: “Around the world, lots of people are killed every year in landslides. Slopes are not always monitored but, if there is an indication that a slope may fail, instruments like this may help to give early warning.

“Slope stability can reduce rapidly in a matter of hours or even minutes. A warning five or 10 minutes’ earlier than is currently possible might be enough to evacuate a block of flats or clear a road - and save lives in the process.”

The device uses a tube inserted into the slope, with a sensor on top to pick up the high frequency sounds that come from moving soil particles underground. The sensor then sends information to a computer that gives a measure of the slope’s stability.

The system is currently being tested using a trial embankment constructed by the University of Newcastle. The research, which will take three years to complete, is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

ENDS

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Notes to editors

Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place it in the top flight of UK universities; the National Student Survey ranked Loughborough equal first among full-time students; and industry highlights the University in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 40% of Loughborough’s income is for research, and 60% for teaching. The University has been awarded five Queen's Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development; and for its outstanding work in evaluating and helping to develop social policy-related programmes.

In 2006 Loughborough celebrates the 40th anniversary of its University Charter, awarded on 19 April 1966 in recognition of the excellence achieved by Loughborough College of Advanced Technology and its predecessor Colleges. Loughborough University of Technology was renamed Loughborough University in 1996.

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