Elon Musk is known for being an innovator. Having made an impact on numerous industries through the use of innovative technologies, Musk has now turned his sights toward tunneling, with the ultimate goal of making the tunnel-building process faster. Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor and Director of the Underground Construction and Tunneling center Mike Mooney weighs in on Musk’s ambitious goals.
From the story:
Musk wants to speed up an excruciatingly slow process to tunneling’s equivalent of the speed of light—about a mile a week. That may sound underwhelming; even a garden snail can cover a mile in less than two days. But a reasonable day for the quaintly-named “tunnel boring machines,” the massive worm-like cylinders known as TBM’s that chew their way through rock and dirt, would be 50 feet.…To a tunneling profession used to the anonymity of the “out of sight, out of mind nature of the underground … bringing in a proven innovator to something as complex as underground construction is a good thing,” says Mike Mooney, whose actual title is the Grewcock Chair Professor in Tunneling at the Colorado School of Mines.…There are two ways for Musk to achieve his five-to-tenfold increase in the tunneling advance rate. He could come up with an entirely new technology. TBM’s, for example, says Mooney, the Colorado School of Mines tunneling professor, were themselves at least a tenfold improvement over earlier tunneling techniques, usually pick and shovel … Or Musk could simply build a better TBM, continuing the myriad, small improvements TBM designers have been making over the past few decades.
Overall, Mooney seems confident that Musk’s involvement could certainly have an impact on the industry.