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Pipe Repair

Pipe Repair

Pipes that repair themselves

Fixing leaks in some pipes can be tricky and very expensive. However, according to an article published on December 21, 2006 in Technology Review, engineers from a company in Aberdeen, Scotland, have developed a kind of artificial platelets that repair leaks in pipes quickly and cheaply, mimicking the system of clotting of our blood when we cut ourselves.

These artificial platelets, which are actually small pieces of polymeric or elastomeric materials, are introduced into the pipe, taking advantage of the flow of the fluid to transport them towards the leak. There, the pressure that pushes the fluid out through the leak, clumps the platelets at the rupture point, closing the fluid leak, says Klaire Evans, a sales and marketing engineer at Brinker Technology, a company that is developing this technology. .

The original idea for the platelets came from Ian McEwan, an engineer at the University of Aberdeen and the director and founder of Brinker.

The method has been tested on a few pipelines owned by BP and Shell. According to Sandy Meldrum, an engineer at BP in Aberdeen, this technology has been used to close a leak in an underwater injection pipeline in an oil field near the Shetlan Islands in Scotland. The usual way to fix these types of leaks is to use remote control vehicles, but that is much more expensive and complicated. With Brinker's new technology, BP saved about $ 3 million on the fix, Meldrum says.

In addition to significantly lowering costs, McEwan's solution can be tailored to the specific conditions of each leak. Platelet size can vary from 0.3 to 50mm, with shapes ranging from discs to cubes. It is also necessary to adapt their hardness to each situation: if a material that is too soft is used, the platelets will deform under pressure and will be expelled through the hole; on the contrary, if the material is too hard, they will not be able to contain the flow of the leak. But the bottom line is that they float so that they can be carried by the fluid, says Evans.

Now, Brinker wants to obtain the necessary permits to start using its technology in water pipes. In England and Wales alone, 3.6 billion liters of water are lost a day to infrastructure leaks, resulting in billions of dollars in repairs for water companies and traffic disruptions on many roads due to excavations.

Source: Technology Review

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