Abstract

Novel rock breakage techniques are becoming more viable and attractive to industry. Microwave energy, as a thermal energy capable of inducing micro cracks through differential heating (therefore expansion) is a technology gaining considerable attention in mineral processing and ore comminution applications. Recently, the use of microwave radiation has been evaluated as a possible avenue for terrestrial and extra-terrestrial drilling applications as well as full face tunneling or rock breaking machines. As part of an overall research on use of microwave in rock breaking systems, the influence of microwave energy on the mechanical properties of common hard rock types as basalt has been investigated. The results revealed that microwave energy irradiation imposes micro and macro cracks to the surface of the rock being irradiated. In explosive free tunneling applications using TBM, jointed and cracked surface of rock eases the cutting process and increases penetration rate. The experimental setups have been simulated with the help of a multi-physics numerical modeling and the results have been compared with practical experiment. The wave propagation of microwave has been simulated and the distances where the power intensity is higher are identified. Experimental and simulation results underlined the potential impact of the use of microwave energy in underground or surface excavation applications such as mining and tunneling. This will also contribute economically when mine-to-mill operation is fully considered to improve the efficiency of rock crusher stages.

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