Quantum Technology - Potential for Railway Infrastructure (QT-PRI)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Civil Engineering

Abstract

QT-PRI is a collaboration between RSK, Atkins, Network Rail and the University of Birmingham (UoB) to establish the Quantum Technology (QT) gravity sensor market opportunities against assessment of current geophysical technologies to detect and assess the condition of assets buried below the railway network, in particular drains, as well as water flow through the railway earthworks. There are over 190,000 railway earthworks and over 6000km buried assets. The incomplete and immature asset inventory significantly limits the development of a decision support framework to allow proactive condition assessment thereby maximising the limited resources and keeping the rail network operational. Currently, geophysical sensors are commercially used to detect the location of the ducts and pipes in roads and with limited success on the railways, but are rarely used to detect the asset condition or the condition of the parent asset (earthwork) itself. Thus, currently geotechnical failures are often reported by train drivers or by walking the asset at a cost of ~£8M/year. This limits any proactive asset management and often results in longer disruptions to the rail network. To overcome these limitations and open up a new application for geophysical sensors, QT-PRI will: 1) Establish the market potential for QT gravity sensors for railway infrastructure by benchmarking it against the most advanced state-of-the-art geophysical instrumentation currently used in the railway industry; 2) Develop novel post-processing techniques to identify the signal of interest, especially along the rail network and Undertake field trials to demonstrate the real-world capabilities and limitations of existing sensors to identify the operational space for QT sensors; 3) Determine technical sensor specifications for QT gravity sensors and 4) Assess the market of QT gravity instruments used both at train speed and quasi stationary to detect buried assets and visualise water flow in railway earthworks.

QT-PRI will accelerate the commercialisation of QT gravity instruments in three ways: 1) ensuring that the sensor development and system engineering efforts produces instruments that are fit for purpose by providing sensor configuration and performance parameters with particular focus on time-lapse assessment and data collection at train speed, 2) increasing the marketplace for the sensors by engagement with a client base not yet familiar with QT sensors, excellent dissemination activities, and practical field demonstrations and 3) demonstrating what can be achievable from commercial geophysical system with respect to sensitivity, resilience, size, weight and cost in comparison with the Return on Investment using QT gravity sensors.

QT-PRI will open up a new market for QT gravity sensors by:
1) Assessing in detail the capability and limitations of the best suite of current geophysical sensors for the railway environment;
2) Increasing the marketplace for the sensors by engagement with the client base, excellent dissemination activities, and practical field demonstrations of prototype equipment capability.

Planned Impact

The beneficiaries from this research are diverse and include:
1. RSK's clients (e.g. civil engineering consultants, town planners, utility companies, councils, Highways England, major projects such as HS2, Thames Tideway, nuclear industry)
2. Atkins' clients (Environment Agency, Highways England)
3. Surveying practitioners (e.g. RSK and others)
4. Network Rail who can carry out a more informed asset management and deterioration assessment, thereby optimising the time and cost of any interventions
5. Train operators, who will benefit from a better maintained railway infrastructure and reduced line closures due to asset failures
6. civil engineers who can determine the condition of earthworks and thus develop novel engineering solutions and practices to maintain the aging infrastructure
7. UK-based and international academics.
8. the general public who will benefit from a reduction delays on the rail network due to better asset management

The short-term impact of this feasibility will be that it will develop detailed technical specifications required for QT gravity sensors used in the rail environment and determine detailed acquisition and data quality parameters in parallel with processing and inversion techniques required to interpret the data collected using QT sensors. Moreover, it will benchmark against existing geophysical sensors in order to determine the market opportunities. This may also lead to improved survey methodologies and data processing in the short-term before the commercial QT sensors come to market. The improved survey strategies necessary for realising the full potential of QT gravity sensors can also be utilised for 'traditional' geophysical surveys.

In addition, the end-users are being engaged early on in the sensor development process opening a channel of communication between the physics researchers and the practitioners. This is vital to ensure the developed sensors are useable in the extreme railway environment with short possession times and stray electromagnetic signals. Furthermore, the practitioners' clients will be able to see the potential of the new QT sensors based on the developed forward models thereby providing confidence in their capabilities. QT-PRI will create the first ever assessment of using the QT gravity sensors for railway infrastructure assets and review the use of time-lapse assessment to determine the water flow through earthworks, thereby increasing the confidence of the market and providing feedback to the sensor development. The engineering driven research takes into account user needs, promoting industrial adoption & generating social and economic impact, e.g. by providing enhanced asset information reducing network delays. This is an essential step to build sufficient commercial confidence in potentially disruptive QT.

On a 10-50 year timescale, the QT sensors could revolutionise a wide range of industrial processes, as diverse as resilient communication networks; structural analysis (e.g. in aerospace); functional analysis (e.g. electronic components); improved oil and gas recovery; CO2 sequestration supervision; construction work using underground space; assessment of water infrastructure; detection of sinkholes; assessment of the condition of dams in flood prevention.

The researchers working on the project will gain enormously by working on a multi-disciplinary project that has a clear, practical application and requires active interaction with the partner company on the project on a professional level. This will undoubtedly make the researchers much more employable in the future. The academic will benefit by being involved in such a prestigious, multi-disciplinary project which has the potential to make a tangible difference in the future. It further addresses an issue that the public is familiar with in respect to delays on the rail network. This will help to further raise their profiles in the academic community.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description + Research showed the potential of QT gravity sensors for the condition monitoring of railway assets
Exploitation Route We will continue to publish the findings at presentations and papers
Once the QT gravity sensor is field ready, we will go back to our field sites and repeat the measurements now that we have benchmark data using existing geophysical instrumentation
Sectors Construction,Environment,Transport

URL http://www.qt-pri.org
 
Description + The project raised the awareness of QT gravity sensing to end users such as Network Rail and Atkins. This is important to ensure the market pull once the sensors become more commercial. + The project demonstrated how existing geophysical sensors can be combined to assess the condition of railway earthworks, detect drainage assets and assess their conditions + The potential of QT gravity sensors was demonstrated
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Construction,Education,Transport
Impact Types Economic

 
Description IUK QT-PRI Collaboration 
Organisation Network Rail Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The potential of QT gravity gradiometers sensors was demonstrated to industry with the focus on railway applications. We provided feedback for sensor operation and sensitivity combined with forward modelling.
Collaborator Contribution Partners provided data, access to test facilities and also access to existing sensing technologies to benchmark QT sensors against. It provided an industry perspective of current workflows and how these would need to change to incorporate QT sensors.
Impact + Suitability matrix of QT gravity sensors + Assessment of workflows for asset management for railway assets
Start Year 2018
 
Description IUK QT-PRI Collaboration 
Organisation RSK Group Limited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The potential of QT gravity gradiometers sensors was demonstrated to industry with the focus on railway applications. We provided feedback for sensor operation and sensitivity combined with forward modelling.
Collaborator Contribution Partners provided data, access to test facilities and also access to existing sensing technologies to benchmark QT sensors against. It provided an industry perspective of current workflows and how these would need to change to incorporate QT sensors.
Impact + Suitability matrix of QT gravity sensors + Assessment of workflows for asset management for railway assets
Start Year 2018
 
Description IUK QT-PRI Collaboration 
Organisation WS Atkins
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The potential of QT gravity gradiometers sensors was demonstrated to industry with the focus on railway applications. We provided feedback for sensor operation and sensitivity combined with forward modelling.
Collaborator Contribution Partners provided data, access to test facilities and also access to existing sensing technologies to benchmark QT sensors against. It provided an industry perspective of current workflows and how these would need to change to incorporate QT sensors.
Impact + Suitability matrix of QT gravity sensors + Assessment of workflows for asset management for railway assets
Start Year 2018
 
Title Gravity data processing 
Description Software was developed to integrate with workflow by RSK to interpret gravity data 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact This software will support RSK with their workflow when interpreting gravity data. It will accelerate their data processing ability and hence make them more competitive compared to other survey companies. 
 
Description Blog for Quantum City Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Created a Blog for the Quantum Communication Hub website and the Quantum City Website explaining how a civil engineer ended up working with quantum physicists and using quantum technology sensors. The idea was to ensure others to engage with quantum technologies even if at first sight they did not have the appropriate background.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.quantumcommshub.net/blog/an-interview-with-a-civil-engineer-in-quantum-professor-nicole-...
 
Description CIRIA Site Investigation Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A talk was given on 18th June 2019 to a group of geoscience professional and civil engineering construction industry as well as asset owners on innovative non-intrusive site investigation techniques. The potential of quantum technology gravity sensors was demonstrated alongside showing the limitations of existing methods.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Civil Engineering Surveyor - Professional Article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A professional article was published in the Civil Engineering Surveyor trade magazine to share the research outcomes with professional practitioners and show the potential of quantum technology gravity sensors in a number of different applications ranging from detecting drainage assets along railway infrastructure and mineshaft along brownfields. The aim was to highlight the potential of the new technologies and make practitioners aware of the research developments and thus the implications for industry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://ces.pagelizard.co.uk/webviewer/#cesnovember2018/the_use_of_quantum_technology_gravity_sensors...
 
Description Discussion with Sydney Water 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Early discussions were held with Sydney Water to discuss the potential of quantum technology gravity sensors to detect leaks from water pipelines. This will be followed up with a visit to Sydney Water in May 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Discussion with UK Water Industry Research re Leak Detection 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Discussions with the Head of Research at UK Water Industry research were had to discuss the potential of quantum technology sensors to address one of ULWIR's big question regarding Zero Leakage by 20150. This might open up additional funding and/or additional applications.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Emerging Frontiers article and video 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Article was published together with a video to highlight the research in quantum technology gravity sensors with respect to revealing below ground assets.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/quest/emerging-frontiers/Mapping-the-ground.aspx
 
Description Industry Workshop for Gravity Sensors 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A workshop was held with industry to assess their challenges related to inaccurate or incomplete knowledge of the location of buried assets and to assess if quantum technology gravity sensors could make a difference to industry in the future, but also to discuss what can be done now with existing geophysical sensing technologies and asset tags.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Institute of Physics - Public Lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact On the 2nd February 2021, I gave a public presentation with the title 'Revealing the Unseen - Potential of Quantum Technology Gravity Sensors - A Civil Engineer's Perspective. It sparked several questions about the usability of the QT instruments in a number of different applications from civil engineering to archaeology. The presentation lasted 45 minutes with Q&A after.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://events.iop.org/revealing-unseen-potential-quantum-technology-gravity-sensors-civil-engineers...
 
Description Keynote at EAGE Near Surface Geophysics conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A keynote was presented as part of the Opening Session of the EAGE Near Surface Geophysics conference. The keynote was entitled "Better location and condition assessment of critical infrastructure: Exploiting existing technologies and Quantum Technology sensors" It used QT-PRI, GRAM, REVEAL as examples of where quantum technology sensors could be used in the future to provide a better understanding of the subsurface.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://eage.eventsair.com/near-surface-geoscience-2019/
 
Description Presentation at Ground Engineering's Smart Data and Monitoring conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact An invited presentation was given to the Ground Engineering's Smart Data and Monitoring conference to highlight the research and demonstrate to industry where the future of site investigation might lie if the new Quantum Technology gravity sensors fulfil their potential. There was a lot of interest from industry and many participants were keen to trial the new sensors and see some results. This is currently not possible as the sensors are not commercially available, but it stimulated an interesting discussion on where the future of site investigation might lie.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description QT Hub Showcase 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Exhibition Stall at the QT Hub National Programme Showcase event in London to present the findings from the research; This spanned the outcome of several QT research projects highlighting our progress and close collaboration with industry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description QT National Showcase Nov 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A webinar was conducted about how quantum technology gravity sensors has an impact on geophysical surveying with particular application in (civil) engineering. This was followed by a Q&A. The webinar involved Nicole Metje, Mike Holynski, Giles Hammond, Paul Wilkinson, Caitlin Percy, Gillian Marshall
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Rail Professional article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The professional journal article highlighted the potential of quantum technology gravity sensors and showed the issues with incorrect knowledge of the buried infrastructure relating to drainage issues on the railway. Moreover, it demonstrated the potential of using multiple sensing technologies to increase the confidence in detection. The article was aimed at the professional railway engineer in order to demonstrate what the future might hold if the quantum technology gravity sensors come to the market and fulfil their potential.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://issuu.com/railpro/docs/november_issue_281801c96626c3?e=10716995/65483474&utm_source=Rail+Pro...
 
Description SUBSURFACE ASSET MANAGEMENT & SURVEYING 2019 Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A technical presentation was given as part of the SUBSURFACE ASSET MANAGEMENT & SURVEYING 2019 conference in Kuala Lumpur. The audience consisted mainly of survey practitioners and politicians as well as some academics. The title of the presentation was "Detecting buried features and density variations using innovative gravity sensors" Approximately 100 practitioners attended the two day event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Seminar Presentation at the College of Surveying, Tongji University, Shanghai, China 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A research presentation was given to 15 postgraduate students as part of a seminar series by Prof David Chapman at the College of Surveying, Tongji University, Shanghai, China in November 2018 covering the latest research on Mapping and Assessing the Underworld, FINDIT, Smart Pipes, the National Buried Infrastructure Facility and gravity surveying all aimed at using sensing technologies to locate and assess the condition of our buried utility assets.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018