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Publication Abstract

Smart Pipe: Nanosensors for Monitoring Water Quantity and Quality in Public Water Systems Lin, Yu-Feng F., Chang Liu, 2009  Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, IL,  ISWS CR 2009-11    Full Text Available

A 2009 study by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) showed that 7 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 in daily water usage. The approximate dollar cost, given varied water rates in different U.S. regions, is $20 to $100 million daily. Unfortunately, America’s drinking water systems face an annual shortfall of at least $11 billion to replace aging facilities that are near the end of their useful lives and to comply with existing and future federal water regulations. Moreover, leaking systems have wasted not only dollars but also priceless natural and energy resources for future generations.

This research project was initiated to develop the concept of a sensor unit 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 developed a “Smart Pipe” prototype: a multi-sensor unit to monitor water flow and quality using state-of-the-art nanotechnology. Each 2.5 by 2.5 millimeter base unit includes sensors for pressure and temperature flow velocity. The Smart Pipe is connected with a wireless processor and antenna to transfer monitoring data to a command center in real time.

The Smart Pipe prototype has been designed as a module unit with an expandable monitoring capability for future available sensors. With several Smart Pipes installed in critical sections of a public water system, real-time monitoring will 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 with government water standards implementation, capacity development, and water systems operations.

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