Most of us can afford to take the earth beneath our feet for granted. But not so for geotechnical engineers, whose job is to shape soil to support embankments, dams, roads and other infrastructure. Their work is grounded in avoiding or minimizing the risk of landslides, sinkholes, and geologic processes that can slowly erode and deform earthen structures.
Traditionally, soil structures have been monitored with spot measurements — probes drilled or buried into the ground that can detect the movement of soil layers at a particular spot. But industrial textile manufacturer TenCate has a more flexible take on the process that literally blankets the dirt with sensors.
GeoDetect, the company’s solution for soil monitoring, senses changes in the ground using a lattice of of fiber-optic cables woven into a mat of tough fabric. Large rolls of the stuff can be unfurled across a slope or laid down in a grid to cover a field or construction site. Heap some more dirt on top and the sensing layer becomes an integral part of the soil structure.
Over time, any deformation or temperature change in the landscape will cause the light passing through the optical fibers to deform or scatter in recognizable ways. Hooked to TenCate’s wireless monitoring equipment, the sensors can detect and localize these shifts down to a specific square meter of ground. TenCate also provides software and data management services tailored for each site, which can provide real-time data and alerts.
TenCate GeoDetect has been used to monitor railways, dams and levees, earth-reinforced walls, and even landfills. Have a look at the video below to learn more.