University of Bath

Design of a Smart Meter to analyse flowing matter in sewage or grey water

We aim to create a low-cost, embedded sensor to monitor quality and rate of flow in water & sewage networks to facilitate maintenance and minimise disruptions.

A manhole on a street.
The meter will be validated and deployed in the field, and assist in low-cost monitoring of the water and sewage networks of South West England.

Obstructions and restrictions to flow in discharge pipes are frequent and costly. Started in 2018, this project aims at merging electronics hardware and bespoke signal processing to create an embedded sensor to measure flow rates and flow properties (e.g. constituent materials) in sewage or grey water discharge pipes of > 250mm diameter. The meter will be low-cost, not restrict the pipes and work for long periods maintenance-free. As a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between the University of Bath and Ashridge Ltd. (in Devon), it will be validated and deployed in the field, and assist in low-cost monitoring of the region’s water and sewage networks.

Project outline

Monitoring of water supplies is economically and environmentally extremely important. It is however costly, and blockage of pipes or flow restrictions are common. Whether it is wet wipes in sewage network, or gravel and silt clogging up pipes, it is important to know where these blockages occur (or are likely to occur), to facilitate maintenance and minimise disruptions to the networks. This Knowledge Transfer Partnership combines the academic expertise of the University of Bath and the field expertise and access to SW water networks of Ashridge Ltd. The research uses the synergy between industrial process tomography, led by Prof. Soleimani (Faculty of Engineering), and signal processing and remote sensing, led by Dr. Blondel (Faculty of Science). Building on our existing joint research projects, we are building sensors to image pipes of differing degrees of fill, with different flow constituents including solids and liquids.

Science

Started only a few months ago, this project has already delivered a sensor using impedance tomography and associated control software. Tested in the laboratory, it is now being refined for field deployments in the SW England water networks. It will be presented by Chenning Wu at the 9th World Congress for Industrial Process Tomography.

Impact

The impact of this project is evident, as low-cost, embedded sensors monitoring quality and rate of flow in water and sewage networks will decrease the costs of maintenance, feeding into water quality and availability improvements.