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15 December 2011 | PR 11/156

Pioneering landslide sensor wins national award

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A pioneering landslide sensor developed by experts at Loughborough University has won a national award.

Slope ALARMS has been created in partnership with The British Geological Survey and supported by Geotechnical Observations Limited.  Thought to be the first of its kind in the world, it works by measuring and analysing the acoustic behaviour of soil to establish when a landslide is imminent so preventative action can be taken.

The detection system has won the Civil Engineering Award at The Engineer magazine’s 2011Technology and Innovation Awards.  These celebrate the groundbreaking achievements of the UK’s leading engineers and partnership working.

Slope ALARMS uses a network of sensors that are buried across the hillside or embankment that presents a risk of collapse.  These act as microphones in the subsoil and record the acoustic activity of the soil across the slope, transmitting individual signals to a central computer for analysis.

Once a certain noise rate is recorded, the system can send a warning, via a text message, to the authorities responsible for safety in the area.  An early warning allows them to evacuate an area, close transport routes that cross the slope or carry out works to stabilise the soil.

The research that led to the development of the system was carried out by academics in the School of Civil and Building Engineering and was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Neil Dixon, Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at Loughborough University and principal investigator on the project, said: “We are delighted that Slope ALARMS has been recognised by The Engineer awards, collaboration between the project partners has been a critical element of the success.  The award is generating further interest in Slope ALARMS and it will help us establish new opportunities to apply the technology.”

As well as the life-saving implications for countries prone to disastrous landslides, the technique can also be used in monitoring the condition of potentially unstable slopes built to support transport infrastructure, such as rail and road embankments, in developed countries such as the UK.

Slope ALARMS is currently being trialled in the Italian Alps, as well as a railway cutting and a section of eroding coastline in the UK.  The system is being further developed to produce a low cost, self-contained version.  This would be particularly suitable for use in countries that experience landslides triggered by very intensive rainfall, which kill many hundreds of people every year, such as Brazil and Taiwan.  The University’s Enterprise Office is keen to speak with companies interested in discussing commercialisation opportunities surrounding this technology.

−ENDS−

For further information contact:

Judy Wing
Senior PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228697
E: J.L.Wing@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

1. Slope ALARMS was awarded the 2010 Loughborough University Enterprise Award for Intellectual Property in recognition of its potential social and economic impact and its commercial application of ground breaking research.

2. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2011 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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