Smart Pipe - Nanosensor Project, Illinois State Water Survey

Groundwater Science

Smart Pipe - Nanosensor Project

Nanosensors for monitoring water quantity and quality in public water systems

A 2005 study by the American Society of Civil Engineers showed that six billion gallons of clean, treated drinking water disappears every day, mostly due to old, leaky pipes and mains. The amount is enough to serve the population of California. The approximate dollar cost, given varied water rates in different U.S. regions, is $12.5 million - $92 million. Moreover, leaking systems have wasted not only dollars but also priceless natural and energy resources for future generations.

Graph of Wireless Sensor DAQ Confirmation A current research project funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency – Midwest Technology Assistance Center is designed to improve water supply infrastructure via a highly-advanced, cost-efficient monitoring system. A research group led by the Illinois State Water Survey, in collaboration with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University, has been developing a "Smart Pipe" prototype: a multi-sensor array to monitor water flow and quality using state-of-the-art nanotechnology. Each sensor unit in the array will include sensors for pressure, flow velocity and temperature on a 2.5mm by 2.5 mm silicon skin. The Smart Pipe will be equipped with a wireless processor and antenna to transfer monitoring data via commercial wireless communication systems.

Photo of the actual pressure sensor taken by microscope With several Smart Pipes installed in critical sections of a public water system, real-time monitoring will be able to automatically detect flow rate, pipe pressure, stagnant points, slow-flow sections, pipe leakage, backflow, and water quality without altering flow conditions in the pipe. Moreover, applying this technology at an affordable cost will help small and/or rural public water systems in rule implementation, capacity development, and water systems operations. Further study is intended to improve this prototype via real-life application that includes the study of the frequency of required maintenance, fouling investigation, measurement calibration, real-time data communication software, manufacturing cost efficiency, long term stability, and assessing the precision and accuracy under differing environmental conditions.  [more]

View live Smart Pipe demonstration on YouTube
View video of a live Smart Pipe demonstration on YouTube. (4:04)

To read more, please view or download the full text document.

Yu-Feng Lin
Illinois State Water Survey/Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
2204 Griffith Dr.
Champaign, IL 61820
PH (217) 333-0235

Illinois State Water Survey

2204 Griffith Dr
Champaign, IL 61820-7463

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