Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Advisor 1

Nina Mahmoudian

Committee Member 1

Mo Rastgaar

Committee Member 2

Gordon G. Parker

Committee Member 3

RJ Matetic


Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel in the United States and remains an essential source of energy. While more than half of coal production comes from surface mining, nearly twice as many workers are employed by underground operations.

One of the key pieces of equipment used in underground coal mining is the continuous mining machine. These large and powerful machines are operated in confined spaces by remote control. Since 1984, 40 mine workers in the U. S. have been killed when struck or pinned by a continuous mining machine. It is estimated that a majority of these accidents could have been prevented with the application of proximity detection systems.

While proximity detection systems can significantly increase safety around a continuous mining machine, there are some system limitations. Commercially available proximity warning systems for continuous mining machines use magnetic field generators to detect workers and establish safe work areas around the machines. Several environmental factors, however, can influence and distort the magnetic fields. To minimize these effects, a control system has been developed using electromagnetic field strength and generator current to stabilize and control field drift induced by internal and external environmental factors.

A laboratory test set-up was built using a ferrite-core magnetic field generator to produce a stable magnetic field. Previous work based on a field-invariant magnetic flux density model, which generically describes the electromagnetic field, is expanded upon. The analytically established transferable shell-based flux density distribution model is used to experimentally validate the control system. By controlling the current input to the ferrite-core generator, a more reliable and consistent magnetic field is produced. Implementation of this technology will improve accuracy and performance of existing commercial proximity detection systems. These research results will help reduce the risk of traumatic injuries and improve overall safety in the mining workplace.