Researchers at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a rubber shuttlecock-shaped sensor that can travel through pipes searching for leaks.
In water pipes it travels with the flow logging changes in water pressure before being retrieved at a fire hydrant. Data gathered is then uploaded without any disruption to the water supply or any unnecessary digging.
Systems used at present to investigate leaks and breaks usually find the problem after it happens and do not work well for pipes made from wood, clay or plastic. The new device can work in all of these.
The system has been under development and testing for nine years by professor of mechanical engineering Kamal Youcef-Toumi and graduate student You Wu.
The technology is not limited to water pipes and could be used for natural gas systems.
Build ups of gas can cause explosions and are currently hard to stop until someone notices a smell.
The team is carrying out tests this summer on 12-inch concrete water-distribution pipes under the city of Monterrey, Mexico. Following the Mexico tests, the team will continue to develop the mechanism to be more flexible so it can fit pipes of different sizes.
The team notes that Monterrey loses 40% of its water through leaks each year.
Images courtesy of MIT