Pressure wave system raises leak detection success
Sheffield University’s engineers seek development partner for quick and reliable innovation
Engineers at the University of Sheffield have come up with a solution to leaking water pipes and are now looking for an industrial partner to help develop it.
The leak detection system works by transmitting a pressure wave along a pipe and sending back a signal if it passes any unexpected features, such as a leak or crack in the pipe surface. The strength of that signal can then be analysed to determine the location and size of the leak. The pressure wave is generated by a valve fitted to an ordinary water hydrant, which is opened and closed quickly and easily.
Successful UK trial
The device has been trialled at Yorkshire Water’s field operators training site in Bradford and results show it offers a reliable and accurate method of leak testing. Leaks in cast iron pipes were located accurately to within 1m, while leaks in plastic pipes were located to within 20cm. The results of the trial have been published in a paper in the August Journal of the American Water Works Association.
Leaky pipes are a common problem for the water industry: according to Ofwat, between 20 and 40 percent of the UK’s total water supply can be lost through damaged pipes. Existing leak detection techniques rely on acoustic sensing, with microphones commonly used to identify noise generated by pressurised water escaping from the pipe. This method, however, is time consuming and prone to errors: the use of plastic pipes, for example, means that the sound can fall away quickly, making detection difficult. Sheffield’s innovation uses a series of calculations based on the size of the pipe, speed of the pressure wave, and the distance it has to travel. The device can be calibrated to get the most accurate results and all data is analysed on site, delivering immediate results that can be prioritised for action.
Dr James Shucksmith of the University of Sheffield’s department of civil and structural engineering, who led the trial, said: "The system has delivered some very promising results at Yorkshire Water. We hope now to find an industrial partner to develop the device to the point where it can be manufactured commercially".