Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Clog Buster: Beating Sewage with Sound

This technology, which promises to keep sewer pipes clog-free, is based on the transmission and processing of sound waves. A speaker lowered through a manhole sends acoustical waves through a pipe to a receiver on the other end. An algorithm processes the signal and determines to what degree clogs or other defects may be obstructing the pipe.

Over 130 cities around the globe are already using the device, called the Sewer Line Rapid Assessment Tool, or SL-RAT. Due to its ease of operation and speed, the tool can complement and help better focus the deployment of currently used robotic cameras and cleaning equipment.

Robotic cameras and sewer cleaning equipment are much slower and cost significantly more to use than the SL-RAT technology. According to InfoSense, utilities can typically cover 1,000 to 1,500 feet per day using a camera or a cleaning truck, while the SL-RAT averages 7,500 to 15,000 feet per day. With more than 800,000 miles of sewer pipes in the U.S., the ability to screen pipes first with the SL-RAT and better target the deployment of cameras and cleaning equipment can generate significant cost-savings for wastewater utilities.

The project is one of many examples of NSF-funded research and technology that take smarter, more innovative approaches to making local and national infrastructure safer, cleaner and more resilient.

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