Electrokinetic Limited is a Newcastle University spin-out company. They are using new technologies to solve an old problem: stabilising slopes and embankments that are in danger of collapse and of causing disruption to railways or road transport. Their approach has demonstrated a range of technical, economic, environmental and operational benefits.
The technologies were developed in the laboratories at Newcastle University by Professor Colin Jones and colleagues including Dr John Lamont-Black and Professor Stephanie Glendinning. These three continue to be closely involved in the spin-out company, with John in the role of Chief Executive.
The technologies harness ‘electro-osmosis’. This is the water flow that occurs in response to an imposed voltage gradient. Projects with Network Rail and the Highways Agency illustrate how well it works.
This method of slope stabilisation is known as EKG (electrokinetic geosynthetics). It is cost effective compared to traditional approaches. The EKG system combines three elements:
- active drainage (electroosmosis)
- passive ongoing drainage
There is no need for heavy equipment, closure of the highway or railway or transport of heavy reinforcements for the embankment. As well as the cost benefit, the carbon footprint of the process is roughly half that of traditional approaches. It has been successfully deployed in nine slope stabilisation projects in the UK.