Cool-Running Coal Truck Could Save More Lives Than a Dozen CanariesS

Coal mining is a dirty, dangerous business. Even with modern safety equipment protecting workers from black lung, plenty of other dangers await them underground. Like, say, mixing easily ignited coal dust with hot machine surfaces. That's why GE has invented a mine-car engine that keeps its cool to prevent setting off a raging inferno.

Coal dust, an intractable byproduct of the coal-mining process, is very combustible with an ignition point of just 325 degrees F. If that dust comes in contact with an open flame—or even a hot car engine—the entire area can can go up in flames in an instant. Hence, GE's Industrea Mk7.0 TIER 3 Mine Cruiser, an open-top subterrenean SUV that seats 12-14 miners.

The Mk7.0 features a specially designed 4.3-liter, 4-cylinder diesel engine and exhaust system that actively prevents sparking through the use of arrestors and prevents temperature spikes above 300 degrees Fahrenheit, what federal OSHA rules demand.

What's more, the vehicle's exhaust stream passes through both a water jacket (wrapped around the manifolds) and a secondary water bath that removes particulates and further cools the vapors (like an automotive bong). By the time the gases exit the vehicle, it's “below 77 degrees Celsius (170 Fahrenheit),” Sean Lynch, manufacturing supervisor at Industrea, explained in a press statement.

The vehicle will even automatically shut down if it detects dangerous concentrations of methane gas, like a 21st century canary. [GE Reports]