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IIT-Kharagpur works on projects to improve rail safety

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India Live Today | 27 September 2016 |  Avinash Nandakumar |

NewDelhi,September 27:The Railways has roped in Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur to develop technologies to ensure rail and passenger safety. Through its Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), the Railways has awarded 12 research projects to the IIT’s Centre for Railway Research. While many of the projects are underway, several are near completion and have reached the delivery stage, said a statement by IIT-Kharagpur, which offers a two-year MTech programme in railway engineering every year to 20 Railway personnel. Researchers from IIT’s metallurgical, mechanical and chemical engineering departments have developed a “high strength baintic steel” for railway tracks, which could significantly improve its tensile and impact properties as well as strength. “The use of this steel is expected to reduce wear and fracture of tracks… We are currently evaluating the new steel in detail to determine its suitability for industrial production. The obvious next step will be to look for industrial partners for the production of this steel,” said Prof Shiv Brat Singh, the lead researcher on the project.

Meanwhile, the department of electronics and electrical communications engineering has developed a “bridge health monitoring system with wireless sensor networks”. While India currently has around 1.3 lakh railway bridges, many of these are over 80 years old and are in a distressed condition. “These bridges need to be monitored for the safety of the trains. At present, these are monitored manually through periodic on-site checks with the help of wired sensors. It has been observed that manual checking is not sufficient and human errors can lead to a disaster. Therefore, there is a need to develop automatic bridge health monitoring system,” said Prof Raja Dutta, the lead researcher. “Such monitoring can now be done through wireless sensor networks, which we have developed. The system can detect whether the bridge is damaged and subsequently, assess its longevity. The sensors fixed on the bridge will collect parameters, which will be sent to operators at stations. All this will happen online,” he added. To conserve energy, the sensors on a bridge will be put on sleep mode, to be activated by another sensor on the track just before a train approaches. The IIT is testing this technology at a bridge at Narayangarh near Kharagpur.  Besides, the team has also developed sensors to monitor water levels at bridges. “Use of radar water sensors to monitor water in the river underlying a bridge is being looked into. Sensors have been placed on bridges to collect data. These will send warnings before water reaches the danger level,” said Dutta.

The IIT’s engineering department has, meanwhile, developed “membranes made of geo-synthetics” to improve the stiffness of the ground below the ballast. This is particularly useful in parts of the track where the ground is soft due to the presence of soft soils. Besides, the department of electrical engineering has developed an automated visual inspection system to monitor height, stagger and diameter of overhead electrical traction line. The system uses camera-based image processing techniques to scan overhead wires for maintenance. In addition, the mechanical and civil departments, along with IIT’s Rubber Technology Centre, have secured a Rs 5-crore grant from the Centre to come up with improved bogie design and rail-wheel traction control for Metro Railway coaches. Apart from developing new products, teams of IIT-Kharagpur have also made recommendations to enhance safety, reduce costs and improve life of wheels and brake blocks. These include incentives for drivers who run trains “smoothly” with little use of brakes. The department of civil engineering is also working on a project to make “the seating and sleeping arrangements in compartments less injury prone during a collision or heavy braking”. The team has recommended the use of “aluminium foam padding” on the train surface. –  Courtesy


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