Mineralogy: from the SOLSA project a sustainable system for core extraction and analysis
Exploration technologies for cultural heritage can be used in seemingly very distant fields such as mining exploration and characterization of raw materials.
This is proved by the experience of CheLab, the laboratory devoted to cultural heritage of the Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Trento, involved in the European project SOLSA – Sonic On-Line Sampling Analysis – for the extractive industry. Here, the development of applications based on innovative technologies created in the academic field for other uses is particularly interesting to respond to the need to rapidly obtain reliable chemical and physical information with methodologies that can be used in a non-laboratory environment.
Funded under the EU Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 with almost 9.8 million euro, SOLSA is a four-year project started in 2016. It aims to develop an “expert” system for on-site core analysis. In particular, the project aims to develop new or improved highly efficient and cost-effective, sustainable exploration technologies. The instrument includes: an integrated drilling system optimized to operate in difficult environments, characterized by the presence of hard and soft rocks, extensible also to other ore types; a fully automated scanner and phase identification software application, usable in other sectors. Thanks to online data access, the system guarantees great savings on the number of drill holes, the accuracy of geo-models and economic evaluation of ore reserves.
SOLSA combines for the first time – along the drill core – non-destructive sensors based on X-ray fluorescence, X-ray diffraction, vibrational spectroscopies and 3D imaging. For this purpose, the project will develop an innovative, user-friendly and “intelligent” software application that, based on the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) method used by the European Commission to assess the maturity of an innovative technology, is at the TRL 4-6 levels. To align the project to the industrial needs and to guarantee market uptake of the system at the end of the project, the SOLSA consortium is coordinated by an industrial partner, the Eramet group (France) – active in the mining and metallurgic sector.
The project involves the participation of 10 partners, including large enterprises, small and medium-sized enterprises and academic experts in the fields of exploration, database management, instrumentation and software development, drilling rigs, analytical prototypes and marketing strategies. In addition to the University of Trento, Italy is involved in the project through the University of Verona.