GRAM - Gravity for Rivers, Agriculture and Mines

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

Abstract

The coming gravity sensors based on Quantum Technologies (QT) have the potential to disrupt existing surveying practices through dramatically improved measurement sensitivities. GRAM is a collaboration between e2v, RSK, the Canal & River Trust, the Coal Authority, Cranfield University and the University of Birmingham (UoB) to establish the Quantum Technology (QT) gravity sensor market opportunities against assessment of current geophysical technologies to determine soil compaction for precision agriculture, detection of water levels in disused mines and mineshafts and canal & river embankment leak detection. GRAM will baseline the capabilities of existing sensor technologies in the sectors identified, provide technical specification and performance requirements to the manufacturers of prototype and commercial QT gravity sensors and establish a market pull from the end users of the information generated by the sensors. Moreover, it will provide a market sizing and market penetration assessment to determine the size of the potential markets, analyse the competitors and determine the cost brackets for each of the three applications together with expected survey methodologies.

Currently, geophysical sensors are commercially used in the three application areas, but they suffer either from localised in-situ installation (e.g. Earth Resistivity Tomography probes), thus not being able to cover large areas, depth penetration and resolution (e.g. Ground Penetrating Radar, Scintrex microgravity instrument) or contain a radioactive source (nuclear density gauges). This limits proactive asset management (earthworks), safe developments of brownfield sites and large infrastructure projects such as HS2 due to unforeseen ground conditions (mines/mineshafts) and increased food production due to poor soil health (precision agriculture). QT gravity sensors have the potential to provide information on water flow, water levels and soil compaction. GRAM will open up these new markets by: 1) Establishing the market potential for QT gravity sensors for leakages through earthworks, water level detection in mines/mineshafts and determination of soil compaction by benchmarking it against the most advanced state-of-the-art geophysical instrumentation currently used in these sectors; 2) Develop novel forward modelling and inversion techniques post-processing techniques to identify the signal of interest and demonstrate the potential of QT sensors; 3) Undertake field trials to demonstrate the real-world capabilities and limitations of existing sensors to identify the operational space for QT sensors; 4) Assess the market of QT gravity instruments in these applications and 5) Develop sensor specifications for the three applications.

GRAM will accelerate the commercialisation of QT gravity instruments in two 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 2) increasing the marketplace for the sensors by engagement with a new client base not yet familiar with QT sensors, excellent dissemination activities, and practical field demonstrations.

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 Agency, major projects such as HS2, Thames Tideway, nuclear industry)
2. surveying practitioners (e.g. RSK and others)
3. Canal & River Trust & Environment Agency, who will gain a better knowledge of the condition of their earthworks
4. Coal Authority & Developers, who will not only know the location of mineshafts, but also the water levels within leading to safer construction
5. Agri-Tech Industry, who will help farmers and business owners become sustainable in this challenging time
6. Famers, who gain better knowledge on the compaction of the soil thereby informing decisions to remediate this
7. policy makers, who could use the results to inform future monitoring schemes
8. civil engineers who can determine the condition of earthworks and thus develop novel engineering solutions and practices to maintain the aging infrastructure
9. UK-based and international academics.
10. the general public who would benefit from improved food security by improving soil health

The short-term impact of this feasibility will be that it will develop detailed technical specifications required for QT gravity sensors used to determine soil compaction for precision agriculture, water flow through earthworks impacting their stability and water levels in disused mines and mineshafts. Moreover, it will benchmark existing geophysical sensors in order to determine the market opportunities. This may also lead to improved/modified survey methodologies and data processing in the short-term before the commercial QT sensors come to market. In addition, it will determine the tolerable costs of surveys and/or QT sensors for the three different applications. This market penetration assessment will ensure the sensors are developed appropriately to ensure market pull when the first commercial QT gravity sensors come to market. In addition, the end-users are engaged early on in the sensor development process opening a channel of communication between the physics researchers, systems engineers and the practitioners. 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. GRAM will create the first ever assessment of using the QT gravity sensor for the three application areas. The engineering driven research takes into account user needs, promoting industrial adoption and generating social and economic impact, e.g. by increasing food production, reducing failures of dam earthworks and reducing risks of brownfield developments.

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 marketable and employable in the future. The academics will benefit by being involved in such a prestigious, multi-disciplinary project which has the potential to make a tangible difference in the future. This will help to further raise their profiles in the academic community.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description + Potential of QT gravity sensors was assessed for three different applications: leakage through canal or reservoir earthworks, detection of mine workings, density variations for precision agriculture ==> findings showed that there is huge potential for mine workings and possibly leakage as long as the leakage plume is big enough. With respect to precision agriculture it will depend on the size of the density variation. The business analysis showed though that the precision agriculture has the highest economic potential worldwide to sell instruments, but the other two applications have a potential to create a return on investment based on etc use of the data, but possibly not for the sale of instruments
+ Developed new modelling code to assess the potential of QT gravity sensors
Exploitation Route We now have several sites which we have benchmarked very accurately using existing geophysical sensing technologies and once e field ready QT gravity gradiometer is available, these sites will be revisited to assess the new sensor.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Construction,Education,Electronics,Environment,Transport

 
Description The findings demonstrated the capability and limitations of existing geophysical sensors to provide a benchmark for QT gravity sensors. It also helped with the market analysis to assess which areas are most promising from a commercial viewpoint. Modelling highlighted what is possible with respect to detectability from a technical viewpoint. Overall, it engaged end-users, i.e. those who are likely to commission a gravity survey in the future and brought them together with a surveyor (RSK) and an instrument developer (Te2v). This would have not happened without this project.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Construction,Education,Electronics,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Innovate UK GRAM 
Organisation Canal & River Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Using forward modelling combined with benchmarking existing geophysical sensing technologies, the potential of QT sensors were evaluated for three application areas: detection of mineshaft, detection of leakage through earthworks and the assessment of soil density for agriculture. The first two were done by the University of Birmingham while the latter was mainly investigated by Cranfield University. This resulted in a detectability matrix.
Collaborator Contribution The partners provided access to test sites as well as feedback on existing work flows to detect the location of mineshafts and leakage through earthworks. The size of the problem was investigated together with the market opportunity for QT gravity sensors.
Impact + Detectability matrix for different assets + Market potential and opportunity for commercial QT gravity sensors + Assessment of the size of the problem + Review of existing workflows for asset management
Start Year 2018
 
Description Innovate UK GRAM 
Organisation Coal Authority
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Using forward modelling combined with benchmarking existing geophysical sensing technologies, the potential of QT sensors were evaluated for three application areas: detection of mineshaft, detection of leakage through earthworks and the assessment of soil density for agriculture. The first two were done by the University of Birmingham while the latter was mainly investigated by Cranfield University. This resulted in a detectability matrix.
Collaborator Contribution The partners provided access to test sites as well as feedback on existing work flows to detect the location of mineshafts and leakage through earthworks. The size of the problem was investigated together with the market opportunity for QT gravity sensors.
Impact + Detectability matrix for different assets + Market potential and opportunity for commercial QT gravity sensors + Assessment of the size of the problem + Review of existing workflows for asset management
Start Year 2018
 
Description Innovate UK GRAM 
Organisation Cranfield University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Using forward modelling combined with benchmarking existing geophysical sensing technologies, the potential of QT sensors were evaluated for three application areas: detection of mineshaft, detection of leakage through earthworks and the assessment of soil density for agriculture. The first two were done by the University of Birmingham while the latter was mainly investigated by Cranfield University. This resulted in a detectability matrix.
Collaborator Contribution The partners provided access to test sites as well as feedback on existing work flows to detect the location of mineshafts and leakage through earthworks. The size of the problem was investigated together with the market opportunity for QT gravity sensors.
Impact + Detectability matrix for different assets + Market potential and opportunity for commercial QT gravity sensors + Assessment of the size of the problem + Review of existing workflows for asset management
Start Year 2018
 
Description Innovate UK GRAM 
Organisation RSK ADAS Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Using forward modelling combined with benchmarking existing geophysical sensing technologies, the potential of QT sensors were evaluated for three application areas: detection of mineshaft, detection of leakage through earthworks and the assessment of soil density for agriculture. The first two were done by the University of Birmingham while the latter was mainly investigated by Cranfield University. This resulted in a detectability matrix.
Collaborator Contribution The partners provided access to test sites as well as feedback on existing work flows to detect the location of mineshafts and leakage through earthworks. The size of the problem was investigated together with the market opportunity for QT gravity sensors.
Impact + Detectability matrix for different assets + Market potential and opportunity for commercial QT gravity sensors + Assessment of the size of the problem + Review of existing workflows for asset management
Start Year 2018
 
Description Innovate UK GRAM 
Organisation RSK Group Limited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Using forward modelling combined with benchmarking existing geophysical sensing technologies, the potential of QT sensors were evaluated for three application areas: detection of mineshaft, detection of leakage through earthworks and the assessment of soil density for agriculture. The first two were done by the University of Birmingham while the latter was mainly investigated by Cranfield University. This resulted in a detectability matrix.
Collaborator Contribution The partners provided access to test sites as well as feedback on existing work flows to detect the location of mineshafts and leakage through earthworks. The size of the problem was investigated together with the market opportunity for QT gravity sensors.
Impact + Detectability matrix for different assets + Market potential and opportunity for commercial QT gravity sensors + Assessment of the size of the problem + Review of existing workflows for asset management
Start Year 2018
 
Description Innovate UK GRAM 
Organisation Teledyne-e2v
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Using forward modelling combined with benchmarking existing geophysical sensing technologies, the potential of QT sensors were evaluated for three application areas: detection of mineshaft, detection of leakage through earthworks and the assessment of soil density for agriculture. The first two were done by the University of Birmingham while the latter was mainly investigated by Cranfield University. This resulted in a detectability matrix.
Collaborator Contribution The partners provided access to test sites as well as feedback on existing work flows to detect the location of mineshafts and leakage through earthworks. The size of the problem was investigated together with the market opportunity for QT gravity sensors.
Impact + Detectability matrix for different assets + Market potential and opportunity for commercial QT gravity sensors + Assessment of the size of the problem + Review of existing workflows for asset management
Start Year 2018
 
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 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 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 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