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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S017283/1
Title: Distributed Fibre-optic Cable Sensing for Buried Pipe Infrastructure
Principal Investigator: Krynkin, Dr A
Other Investigators:
Horoshenkov, Professor KV Tait, Professor S Dervilis, Professor N
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Arup Group Ltd Nuron Ltd US Environmental Protection Agency
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 28 October 2019 Ends: 27 October 2023 Value (£): 641,361
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Acoustics Fluid Dynamics
Water Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Environment Water
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 Dec 2018 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 6 and 7 December 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
In the UK the 600,000 km long underground sewer system (including private sewers) is ageing and poorly monitored. In continental Europe, the total value of the sewer assets amounts to 2 trillion Euros. The US EPA estimates that sewer collection systems in the USA have a total replacement value between $1 and $2 trillion. In China alone 40,000 km of new sewer pipes are laid every year. The system is subject to increasing capacity demands because of increased urbanisation and climate change. OFWAT (UK) and similar regulatory bodies in the developed countries impose a legal duty on water utilities to maintain the conditions of their sewer systems and to reduce the risk of flooding incidents. Consequently, monitoring pipes for obstructions and defects remediation forms an important part of an effective management programme to reduce sewer flooding and optimise the operational and maintenance costs. Existing sewer survey methods are limited to the interpretation of CCTV and LightLine images which are relatively slow and require a mobile trolley with camera to traverse through individual sewer pipes. Other existing inspection solutions rely on a limited number of flow metering devices (spot meters) which are installed sparsely across the sewer network. As a result, there are clear indications that less than 2% of the UK network is surveyed every 5 years and that a considerable number of flooding incidents are either unreported or observed with a considerable delay. This prevents the water utilities from developing a proactive maintenance programme which would enable them to achieve zero-failures in terms of sewer flooding.

The project proposed here is formulated to develop new science which underpins the emerging fibre-optic sensing technology platform which can be laid with a robot in the invert of a sewer pipe to sense the flow conditions and continuously monitor pipe deterioration pervasively and to respond to events proactively. Theoretical, numerical modelling and extensive laboratory work will be carried out to understand the fluid-structure interactions between the turbulent flow and turbulence-induced vibration in the fibre cable containment system. The optical signals will be studied, numerically predicted and theoretically explained. New signal processing and pattern recognition algorithms will be developed to link these optical signals to key flow characteristics and to the change in any change structural integrity of the pipe. In addition, field measurements and validation will be carried out with support the lead commercial partner, nuron Ltd, using the new fibre-optic cable system. A key outcome of this work will be: (i) new theoretical understanding how this technology works and be developed towards a much higher technology readiness level; (ii) new, user-friendly software which will incorporate the major theoretical findings and post-processing algorithms that convert the optical signal to the flow characteristics measured distributively along the fibre-optic cable length and understood by the end-user.

The proposal is timely because it will contribute significantly to the need for us to better understand the hydraulic behaviour and conditions of our buried infrastructure in real time and at an unprecedented spatial resolution. The new sensor technology will also enable new theoretical foundations to be developed in the areas of hydraulics, wave propagation, structural health/condition monifoting and computational fluid dynamics.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.shef.ac.uk