Geotechnical Centrifuge

Posted on June 8, 2021

Jeff Mottershead heashot


Tomorrow’s results today.

What if you could learn how a process will fare today
instead of waiting years?

The mining industry faces a challenge with how tailings ponds dewater and settle. Ongoing research is seeking the right treatment to augment natural consolidation.
The settling process can be slow, making it unrealistic to wait years to see how a particular treatment performs in order to make adjustments.

We have developed a low cost, roughly drum-sized geotechnical centrifuge with Suncor Energy Inc. to predict the long-term fate of tailings within just hours.

Jars filled with treated samples are spun in the centrifuge for several hours while precisely timed photographs record the settling behaviour. Because settling is governed by Earth’s gravity; increasing gravity increases the settling rate. We use theoretically derived scaling laws to determine the rpm and duration necessary to scale stresses inside the test sample to match a larger deposit. The samples spin at this calculated speed, experiencing a centripetal acceleration that is much greater than that of Earth’s gravity, thus markedly speeding up the consolidation process and effective passage of time.

A time machine if you will.

*safety cover open for demonstration purposes only*

screenshot of custom software showing consolidation of material samples inside geotechnical centrifuge

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