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A Basingstoke-based startup called Hypertunnel has developed a revolutionary approach to tunneling including tunnel construction, enlargement, repair and maintenance of tunnels and underground structures.
The company's co-founders, Jeremy Hammond and Steve Jordanhe showcased a new, cost-effective, safer and environment-friendly system for the construction, repair, enlargement, and maintenance of tunnels.
Hypertunnel leverages several innovative technologies, including horizontal directional drilling and 3D printing for this new tunneling method.
It draws on techniques like digital underground surveying, digital twinning, and machine learning, all supported by artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Contrary to the conventional method of tunneling, Hypertunnel first builds the tunnel and then digs the hole. Hypertunnel 3D prints the tunnel inside the ground, working to a digital twin created using the data generated by Hypertunnel's digital ground surveying techniques.
By using horizontal directional drilling, a series of bore pipes are drilled in the soil to form the outline of the tunnel. Then, a number of semi-autonomous robots move throughout the inside of the bores to create the structural shell of the tunnel using swarming techniques.
The spoil is removed with a remote-controlled excavator after the disruption of the soil within the shell. A continuous layer of concrete is then sprayed onto the shell and the construction is completed.
Secondary bore pipes are used to house monitoring technologies which improve long-term tunnel maintenance and safety.
The process can be divided into the following phases
- Preparation of the tunnel using horizontal directional drilling and a digital twin
- Construction with a swarm of hyperbots
- Excavation with the new dragline Hypershield
- Completion with a digital twin
Hypertunnel offers a wide range of economic and environmental benefits:
- Reduced costs
- Accurate and safe tunnel design due to geological certainty
- Increased flexibility to handle more twists and turns
- Better control of ground movements
- Lower environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions
- Minimal road closures and traffic disruption
- Reuse and removal of spoil at a distant location
- Sustainability reasons include reduced energy and water consumption, less air pollution, and reduced waste generation
Hypertunnel is already working in the U.K. and has won the support of some of the most highly respected figures in the engineering and infrastructure sector.
The benefits offered by Hypertunnel make it a breakthrough technique in the tunneling and underground sector.