The start of ice tunnel project


The construction of an ice tunnel in Langjökull will start soon. The construction will be carried out by the company Ísgöng ehf. which is owned by the Icelandic Tourism Fund, an investment fund specializing in new recreation opportunities in tourism in Iceland. EFLA Consulting Engineers has developed the project since 2010 and will be responsible for the detailed design of the tunnel and for supervising the project.

Part of the project is the design and construction of a specialized breaking machine that will grind down firn and ice during the tunnel construction. An extensive literature search has revealed that such a breaking machine for glacial ice has probably never been built in the world. What comes closest is a machine built by the U.S. military for a tunnel construction in firn in the Antarctic in 2001.

The structure of the machine is to a large extent based on the Antarctic machine but also on research done by an engineering student at EFLA last summer; the Icelandic Student Innovation Fund supported that work. Previous studies on the behaviour of ice were used to develop teeth that break the ice with minimum energy consumption and exploit the vulnerability of ice which is limited tensile strength. A prototype of an ice breaking machine was built and experiments were conducted on the suitable speed and space between teeth. Subsequently, it was decided to undertake the construction of a larger and higher-output machine using the improved teeth design. Efla's mechanical designers built on the experience that was gained from the project in the Antarctic and the engineering student's research from the previous summer and designed a rugged machine that fits on the front of a Bobcat.

Héðinn hf. built the breaking machine and also made the necessary changes to the work machine. In order for the machine and its use to comply with laws and regulations, it was CE marked and that work was done by Efla as Efla offers specialist services in CE markings.

The design, stress analysis and three-dimensional plans of the ice breaking machine were carried out in Autodesk Inventor.

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