World-first research wins national innovation award

UTS researchers Dr Teresa Vidal-Calleja, Associate Professor Jaime Valls Miro, Professor Gamini Dissanayake and Dr Lei Shi from the award-winning team. Image supplied.

UTS researchers Dr Teresa Vidal-Calleja, Associate Professor Jaime Valls Miro, Professor Gamini Dissanayake and Dr Lei Shi from the award-winning team. Image supplied.

In summary: 
  • A collaborative research team from UTS, Sydney Water and other water utilities and universities from around the globe have won a national innovation award
  • Their research aims to solving a major problem - failures in ageing critical pipelines that deliver fresh water to the towns and cities of the world

A UTS partnered project has won the Australian Water Association's 2016 National Research Innovation Award. The research has been praised for its unique approach into assessing conditions of large water pipe mains and preventing their failure.

"As one of the top accolades within the water industry, the award shows significant recognition of our research," says Associate Professor and project lead Jaime Valls Miro from the UTS Centre for Autonomous Systems.

The project was commissioned by Sydney Water along with other Australian, British and American utilities, and is of a magnitude not seen before in this field, distinguishing it as a world first.

"The scope of this project is quite large because there are so many factors that influence why a pipe breaks. The various pressures inside the pipe, soil conditions, the actual materials that are being used, there's just a myriad," says Valls Miro.

"Research has been done in many of these areas of course, but our project encompasses these various factors together."

The collaborative work of UTS, the University of Newcastle and Monash University has developed tools to model corrosion, improve condition assessment and predict failure of the critical pipes that distribute water throughout a city, so that ultimately assets in poor condition can be replaced before failure occurs.

With the project set for completion in early 2017, the findings are already being implemented by water utilities throughout Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

"The success of the project can be partly attributed to a large water main test pipe made available by Sydney Water, which has not been done before. This has allowed us to have a very detailed understanding of the mechanisms behind an operational, in-situ critical pipe itself," says Valls Miro.

A key component of the research was conducted at UTS where a better understanding of conventional condition assessment technologies could be gained and their effectiveness enhanced through innovative machine learning approaches.

"The research has a very direct link to the industry," says Valls Miro. "It provides specific tools needed to prevent critical pipe failures, which is a benefit to utilities and therefore their customers."

The Research Innovation Award is presented annually for significant contributions to water research that lead to improvement in water management and an extension of knowledge in the field.

For further information about the project, visit: www.criticalpipes.com