Tag tech for buried pipes spins out

July 5, 2010
Tag tech for buried pipes spins out
One of the tags developed by OxEmS

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new Oxford University spin-out company, Oxford Electromagnetic Solutions Limited (OxEmS), has been set up to commercialise technology to locate and identify buried plastic pipes.

OxEmS was spun out by Isis Innovation, Oxford University's technology transfer company, to produce solutions for the utilities sector.

As the utility infrastructure ages, metal pipes, such as cast iron gas mains, are rapidly being replaced with plastic ones. However, buried plastic pipes are notoriously difficult to detect using current methods which are expensive, inefficient and in many cases don't produce the quick and accurate results required.

The new tag and sensor technology OxEmS is deploying was developed at the Department of Engineering Science and uses an extension of and detection (RFID) and passive low frequency tags to give each buried plastic pipe a unique frequency domain ID, rather like a 'barcode'. The pipe's location and this code which provides immediate information on the type of service carried as well as providing access to remote data related to the asset, can be detected from the surface using a new locator which OxEmS is developing.

It is estimated that there are over 4 million kilometres of buried pipes and cables in the UK, with around 100,000km of cast iron gas main considered at high risk of failure and in need of replacement. It is intended that the new technology will address all kinds of buried infrastructure, including water, gas, power, and telecommunications, and could reduce the costs to utilities of street works by at least 40%.

The new system is designed to be low cost to install, robust and requiring very low maintenance. Crucially it also performs well in wet conditions enabling the location essential for pinpointing failed pipes responsible for water leaks.

Professor David Edwards of the Department of Engineering Science led the founding team comprising Dr Harvey Burd, Dr Christopher Stevens and Dr Tong Hao that developed the technology at Oxford University.

Professor David Edwards said: ‘We originally started working on the problems industry faced in this area as part of the ‘Mapping the Underworld’ call from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which led to the domain ‘barcode’ approach. Our previous work in underwater pipe detection enabled us to model the response from wet environments and develop the OxEmS technology based on a long history of working on long range detection and positioning systems.’

Kevin Gooding, CEO of OxEmS, said: ‘One of the major benefits to utility firms of the OxEmS solution is that the ‘intelligent’ part of the technology is on the surface, so that the buried tagging units are simple, leading to significantly reduced unit costs as well as increased reliability and longevity. It also means less street work disruption for the rest of us, with no more ‘dry holes’ where a contractor digs a hole but finds nothing.’

Explore further: Going underground

Related Stories

Going underground

March 22, 2006

A major project to create 3D underground maps of the UK has begun, which will save the UK millions of pounds in road maintenance.

Grub's passion for plastic causes water loss

September 27, 2007

Research by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has found that a small white grub is responsible for water leaking from sub-surface drip irrigation pipes used by some lucerne growers.

New Oxford spin-out to transform surfaces

September 7, 2006

The latest spin-out company from the University of Oxford, Oxford Advanced Surfaces Ltd, plans to apply surface science to develop a revolutionary coating for materials like plastics and Teflon.

Lead leaching and faucet corrosion in PVC home plumbing

June 2, 2008

Scientists in Virginia are reporting that home plumbing systems constructed with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic pipes may be more susceptible to leaching of lead and copper into drinking water than other types of piping ...

No mere pipe dream

February 8, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- UCI engineers are working on robotic technology to rehabilitate the nation's aging water infrastructure.

Light electric motor spins out

September 10, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new Oxford University spin-out company, Oxford Yasa Motors, has been set up to commercialise lightweight electric motors developed at the Department of Engineering Science. The new technology promises to ...

Recommended for you

New method analyzes corn kernel characteristics

November 17, 2017

An ear of corn averages about 800 kernels. A traditional field method to estimate the number of kernels on the ear is to manually count the number of rows and multiply by the number of kernels in one length of the ear. With ...

Optically tunable microwave antennas for 5G applications

November 16, 2017

Multiband tunable antennas are a critical part of many communication and radar systems. New research by engineers at the University of Bristol has shown significant advances in antennas by using optically induced plasmas ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.