Laser radar to protect communities from contaminated dust

By Adam Florance
Thursday, 03 November, 2016

Laser radar to protect communities from contaminated dust

A new ‘laser radar’ system that allows real-time monitoring of potentially hazardous dust emissions has been successfully trialled in the industrial centre of Port Hedland. It has the potential to drastically improve the lives of residents in and around industrial areas that produce contaminant dust plumes.

The research was conducted by the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE), in collaboration with Curtin University. Port Hedland was chosen as the test site for its history of high dust levels from local mining and bulk commodities export.

The research confirmed the theoretical efficacy of the Coherent Doppler Lidar system. Lidar has been dubbed ‘laser radar’, though it is actually short for light detection and ranging. This new technology will be useful in evaluating dust mitigation strategies, occupational safety studies, validating modelling and routine monitoring of health risks in areas close to ports and mines.

According to project leader John Sutton, of Aeolius Wind Systems, “This information can be used to identify dust emission sources, track dust plumes, provide insight into the way wind transports dust and determine community exposure. In short, the system allows better management of contaminant plumes, which in turn helps to reduce impacts on communities.”

Lidar has numerous advantages over traditional point monitoring and modelling, with Sutton saying, “By allowing real-time measurement of contaminant plumes, lidar gives us an idea of what’s happening in the real world. It provides information about the source and shape of contaminant plumes, and the concentrations of contaminant particles — and therefore information on who is being or will be affected.”

Professor Ravi Naidu, managing director of CRC CARE, said, “This is a new, improved technology that provides unique capability for identifying industrial dust plumes.” As such, it is an ideal example of how the Commonwealth Government’s CRC Program is developing better tools for industry.

“In turn, this shines a light on pathways for reducing impacts on local communities,” said Professor Naidu.

Sutton believes lidar’s real-time information can help environmental managers make better decisions when it comes to identifying and dampening plume sources. He said, “This sort of capability simply isn’t possible with traditional point monitoring, which may gather data from three or four monitoring points. The lidar system effectively measures thousands of points and, what’s more, it works over a large area of up to 300 km².”

A free download of this research is available from the CRC CARE website.

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