Mapping the Underworld

Historically, the world has responded to a growing population by building outwards and upwards, not below ground. 

With the global population expected to grow by 83 million every year until 2030, the world urgently needs to find ways to unlock the potential of underground space if we are to meet the needs of people whilst minimising environmental impacts and building resilience to climate change.

Beneath our feet

Our researchers are responding to this challenge by developing new technologies and processes which will allow us to more fully understand – and utilise – the world beneath our feet.

As Director of the UK’s National Buried Infrastructure Facility, Professor Chris Rogers and his team at Birmingham have sensing technologies which allow engineers to accurately assess the location and condition of pipes and cables. 

Gravity sensors

Professor Kai Bongs and his team at Birmingham are also pioneering the development of quantum gravity sensors. The technology works by detecting very slight changes in gravity at the atomic level, allowing us to map underground spaces far beyond the reach of current sensors.

By better understanding the world beneath our feet, urban planners and engineers around the world will be able to make more efficient use of land resources. Building underground could also help communities adapt to the challenges, creating infrastructure, homes and offices that can cope with extreme weather events.

Dr Nicole Metje