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Groundwater: Dutch infrastructure’s foe. Embrace technology for salvation.

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TLDR:

Rising groundwater levels in the Netherlands are posing a threat to infrastructure such as road surfaces and tunnels. This is due to climate change and its impact on extreme weather events. However, technology can provide solutions to monitor and mitigate the risks. Companies such as Stabialert use sensor systems to measure deformations and vibrations in tunnels in real time. The concept of “digital twins” also allows for accurate monitoring and analysis of tunnel conditions. Additionally, mini-robots that operate in swarms are being developed to help with tunnel reconstruction projects.

Key points:

  • The interplay between high groundwater levels and certain types of steel used in tunnel construction in the Netherlands is a concern for infrastructure managers.
  • Stabialert employs sensor systems to monitor and measure deformations and vibrations in tunnels during construction and renovation.
  • Digital twins, which are digital copies of tunnels, enable accurate monitoring and analysis of tunnel conditions.
  • Mini-robots operating in swarms are being developed to assist with tunnel reconstruction projects.

Groundwater levels in the Netherlands are rising, posing a threat to the country’s infrastructure, including road surfaces and tunnels. This is particularly concerning due to the interplay between high groundwater levels and a specific type of steel used in tunnel construction. When the foundation fails, the road surface can rise, causing dangerous situations. In December 2022, the Prinses Margriettunnel on the A7 near Sneek experienced this issue. Now, more tunnels in the Netherlands are also at risk.

However, technology offers potential solutions to monitor and mitigate these risks. Dutch company Stabialert specializes in monitoring bridges, tunnels, and buildings. Their sensor system can measure deformations and vibrations in tunnel structures in real time, both during construction and renovation. These measurements are displayed on a dashboard, providing valuable data for infrastructure managers.

Another technological innovation is the concept of “digital twins” for tunnels. This involves creating a digital copy of a tunnel, which allows for accurate monitoring and analysis of its condition. Hexagon Geosystems, for example, provides technology that enables the creation of detailed digital twins. This is vital for both the renovation of existing tunnels and the construction of new ones.

In the future, it is likely that many tunnels in the Netherlands will need to be partially or completely rebuilt. To assist with this process, mini-robots that operate in swarms are being developed. These robots, such as those from hyperTunnel, are customized for each project and can move underground through pre-drilled pipes. Once inside the pipes, they use robotic arms and milling heads to excavate small cavities, which are then filled with concrete or other solid materials to create the tunnel structure. This approach offers advantages such as more efficient use of construction materials and adjustments based on geology.

Overall, technology can play a crucial role in monitoring and addressing the risks posed by rising groundwater levels to Dutch infrastructure. Real-time monitoring systems, digital twins, and mini-robots all offer potential solutions to ensure the safety and stability of tunnels and other structures.

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