One of the biggest challenges facing the mining industry is rock wall failure. Charlie Li’s invention could change all that, by making excavations safer. Dynamic Rock Support AS, a spin-off from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), is commercialising Li’s technology.
“The industry is crying out for new energy-absorbing elements for rock reinforcement, and that is what we have,” says NTNU Professor Charlie Li.
Li has invented a new type of bolt for rock reinforcement. The most common way to protect mines and tunnels from rock fall is to install bolts in the country rock. In highly stressed rock masses, rock reinforcement bolts need to be both deformable yet able to bear high loads to securely anchor the moving rock masses.
No other current rock bolt combines these contradictory characteristics nearly as well as Li’s solution. The unique anchoring system combined with the ductile nature of the bolts enable them to tolerate high loads and rock deformation without breaking unexpectedly, thus absorbing more energy than conventional rock bolts.
“This will significantly improve safety levels in mines and tunnels and reduce operation and maintenance costs,” says Li.
From patent to spin-off
Li has worked with rock reinforcement for more than 15 years, at the University of Technology in Luleå Sweden, as a mining engineer at the Boliden Mineral mining company in Sweden, and at NTNU since 2004. Li’s NTNU colleagues advised him to see if his new invention could be patented.
“I contacted the faculty and was sent to NTNU Technology Transfer AS, which handles commercialisation of technologies from NTNU. The patent application was filed within six weeks,” says Li.
NTNU Technology Transfer AS helped Li establish Dynamic Rock Support AS, which is owned partly by its entrepreneur team and partly by NTNU (Technology Transfer AS). Dynamic Rock Support AS currently employs 2.5 people, but plans to recruit senior sales representatives in Canada, Australia and Sweden.
Not the last
Li is the first staff member at the Department of Geology and Mineral Resources Engineering to commercialise technology through NTNU Technology Transfer AS – but hopefully not the last. “Mining geology is a traditional profession and the people working here might not be used to thinking about patenting. I am sure there are several technologies and scientific ideas here that are worthy of commercialisation, because our research is world class,” says Li.
Materials provided by The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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