Load Pins and Position Sensors used for Antarctic Research

A Load Pin and a Draw Wire Position Sensor Working in Antarctica
A Load Pin and a Draw Wire Position Sensor Working in Antarctica

Applied Measurements were contacted by Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand about building a load pin for an Antarctic research application.  The university are involved in a project on Roosevelt Island in western Antarctica in a project to build a drill to extract a 750m ice core from the Ross Ice Shelf.

The team is made up of scientists from New Zealand, USA, Denmark, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Italy and China.  From the research the study will build a better picture of atmospheric greenhouse gases, carbon levels and temperature  change over the last 20,000-40,000 years.  The study will also help to determine the stability of the Ross Ice Shelf with this warming and corresponding sea level rise since the end of the earths last glaciation 20,000 years ago.

Applied Measurements needed to design and manufacture a pair of custom load pins for the university that could compensate for temperatures as low as -30degC.  The load pin also had a built in ICA4S amplifier that could give a 4-20mA output for them to use to monitor the drilling forces.

The Antarctic Drilling Laboratory
The Antarctic Drilling Laboratory – Credit: Dr. Sepp Kipfstuhl, Alfred Wegener Institute Germany

The team also needed a way to monitor the extension movement of the drill mast.  This was done with a WS12 draw wire sensor also giving a 4-20mA output.  The WS12 is able to cope with the harsh environment as standard due to its IP67 environmental protection and low temperature operation as low as –20degC.  Due to the temperature never rising above zero on site there was never a problem with ice forming so it was able to operate at lower temperatures than -20degC.

The team needed a display for each of the sensors that we supplied and also asked us to provide a display for an existing rotary sensor that they had already sourced.  Their rotary sensor gave a pulse output unlike the 4-20mA output that all of the other sensors gave.

The flexibility of the Intuitive-2 range of indicators meant that we could offer a 4 separate indicators to monitor the two load pins, the WS12 draw wire and the rotary sensor so that each indicator gave the same type of RS485 serial output.  Because of the modular construction of the Intuitive 2 range of indicators this meant that the team could take fewer spare parts costing less money to the Antarctic site as almost all of them could be shared by the different variations of the Intuitive 2 indicator.

It has been 3 years now since we first heard from the University.  The modular spares for the indicators have proved invaluable for the team and has meant that they can save time when replacing parts as recalibration of the equipment needs not be done every time as you would when totally replacing a meter.  The reliability of the load pins and draw wire has been proved as the drill system is now into it’s 2nd year of service on the ice.

For more information please call us on 01189 817339 or email us on [email protected]

The Antarctic Research Camp
The Antarctic Research Camp – Credit: Dr. Sepp Kipfstuhl, Alfred Wegener Institute Germany