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Landslide innovation

15 May 2008

Dr Peter Brabham

A project assessing landslide risks in South Wales has picked up a prize at the Cardiff University Innovation Awards.

The Innovation Award for Long Term Collaboration was awarded to the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences and TerraDat (UK) Ltd, a local company founded by two Cardiff University graduates Nick Russill and Rob McDonald.

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The South Wales valleys have one of the highest risks of active landsliding in the UK due to a number of complex geological, landscape and historical coal mining factors.

This joint initiative explores new and innovative ways to quickly assess areas in South Wales that are most at risk from landslides.

The team are using novel techniques, such as small hand-controlled helium balloons with digital cameras and GPS controlled high resolution geophysical surveying.

Data collected provides critical information on the area, and can be combined to create a 3D computer model of the landside to help engineers and other agencies with risk management.

Dr Peter Brabham, of the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, lead academic in the project said: "Our partnership has so far succeeded in providing a system which is cost effective and has a rapid response capability over traditional, costly aeroplane mounted photography and invasive drilling. With the threat of climate change bringing on more severe rainfall, active landsliding events are likely to become more common in the UK."

The long term project between the School and Terradat has given students and academics the opportunity to use state-of-the art geophysical equipment and techniques, coupled with academic conference and research gains.

When it is completed in 2009 it is hoped that the results from the project will help those at risk from landslide, not only in South Wales, but around the world. TerraDat will also gain significantly from the market potential for rapid, long-term landslide monitoring.

The Cardiff University Innovation Awards recognise successful collaborations forged between the University and the world of business. This year’s awards were sponsored by BioFusion and Geldards.

Projects ‘Highly Commended’ by the judges included an environmental rating system for vehicles developed with Dr Paul Nieuwenhuis at Cardiff Business School’s Centre for Automotive Industry Research and Clifford-Thames Ltd.

Also Highly Commended was an ongoing partnership between Laing O’Rourke Plc, the UK’s largest privately owned construction company, and Cardiff School of Engineering on the development of high performance concrete products, including the patented "CARDIFRC" developed by Professor Bhushan Karihaloo.

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