Since returning from sabbatical, I have focused on remote and reconfigurable methods for machine condition monitoring using robotic systems, hybrid methods of machinery diagnostics, field robotics for novel oilsands applications, and reliability of rail brake systems.
On sabbatical, I was working at the National Research Council of Canada on how nonlinear optical methods can be applied to measurements for natural resources applications, especially oil & gas and mining, for process monitoring, machinery diagnostics, and industrial environmental monitoring. Glass-fibre-based Bragg gratings have interesting potential. (One student is extending this work: applying real options valuation to the problem of how to assess the value of a new technology using risk-based decision making, with applications to new sensing systems and advanced materials.) I worked with Jacob Bortman’s group in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba Israel. I continue to work with several students on lumped-parameter dynamic modelling and simulation of the physics of failure of power transmission elements (gears, Cardan universal joints).
Other academic work includes exploring concepts for using analytics in large datasets to improve the conditional probability of correct classification of machine faults, in rotating equipment and in structures. Applications include energy technologies (oil & gas, nuclear, and renewables), mining, and rail transport. Concepts are being developed for remote inspection, using not only wireless sensor networks, but also unmanned aerial systems. I have worked with several capstone design teams on system designs; and two undergraduate research students are building a demonstration prototype of a unmanned aerial system capable of taking vibration measurements from inaccessible equipment.
I also am writing up manuscripts of research that is completed but has yet to be published.
I continue to work with Prof. Benoit Rivard in Earth & Atmospheric Sciences on using hyperspectral reflectance spectrometry to characterize oilsands and oilsands tailings. This work has been supported by the U of A School for Energy & Environment, Shell, the Oilsands Tailings Consortium (now COSIA), and NSERC. Field studies have taken place at Shell Albian Sands since Summer 2010. A prototype spectrometer in a novel application was successfully tested in Summer 2014. Current work entails prototype instrument development for characterizing process streams such as ore grade, bitumen froth, and tailings, with Spectralog.
With Copperstone Technologies and ConeTec, I conducted field trials of an amphibious rover capable of navigating on water, mud, and soft soils. The rover can carry different payloads for sampling and characterization such as shear strength, and operates either autonomously or under remote control. Trials took place at two oil sands operating facilities. Future trials are planned, including testing a new concept for robotic methods for planting vegetation for reclamation.