22 May 2019

Mine safety and lightning strikes the focus of Curtin’s Fulbright Scholars

Protecting industrial infrastructure from lightning strikes and ensuring mine safety will be the aim of two leading US scientists who have been awarded prestigious scholarships to conduct research at Curtin University’s Western Australian School of Mines: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering next year.
Atmospheric physics expert Professor Richard Sonnenfeld, from New Mexico Tech, and respected mining and metallurgical engineering academic Professor George Danko, from the University of Nevada, will be based at Curtin’s Kalgoorlie and Perth campuses from January to June 2020 under the Fulbright Program.
Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry congratulated Professor Sonnenfeld and Professor Danko on being recognised with a Fulbright Scholarship, which promotes academic excellence, innovation and creativity.
“Curtin is honoured to be hosting two very distinguished researchers who will directly contribute to improving the safety and integrity of mining and resources infrastructure, and complement Curtin’s existing research strengths,” Professor Terry said.
“Professor Sonnenfeld’s research will reveal how lightning interacts with tall infrastructure and Professor Danko’s development of a ground-breaking method for monitoring air quality inside mines are both of strategic importance to Australia in ensuring the integrity of its key energy and resources infrastructures.”
Professor Sonnenfeld said he was honoured to be awarded a 2020 Fulbright Scholarship in Resources and Energy, which is funded by Curtin University and enables US scholars to undertake research at Curtin.
“My research focuses on observing and understanding the attachment of lightning to tall structures and will help researchers at Curtin understand and improve lightning protection of mine headframes, wind turbines, and other tall structures in the energy industry,” Professor Sonnenfeld said.
Professor Danko, whose research in the US is supported by the Alpha Foundation and by industrial partners in Australia, said his method for monitoring and comparatively modelling air quality inside mines will be used to design and operate ventilation systems for improving health and safety while conserving energy.
“The Early Warning System evaluates real‐time atmospheric monitoring signals from a mine and compares them with simulated results from a ventilation model to identify any deviations, thus providing advanced warning for any possible accident, in addition to evaluating cost-saving scenarios,” Professor Danko said.
The Fulbright Program was established in Australia in 1949 through a binational treaty between the Australian and US Governments. About 100 Australian-American Fulbright Scholarships are awarded each year.

Richard Sonnenfield
George Danko
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