PI: Piervincenzo Rizzo (Principal Investigator), Ian Conner (Co-Principal Investigator), Samuel Dickerson (Co-Principal Investigator)

Title: A new sensing device for disaster prevention and biomedical applications

Description: In petrochemical and nuclear power plants, aging pipelines and harsh environment call for advanced methodologies to monitor the intricate network of piping to prevent catastrophic explosions. Flow-accelerated corrosion and erosion-corrosion are among the most common degradation modes of the steel piping. One of the maintenance paradigms to mitigate the risks of structural failures consists of measuring the thickness of pipe walls periodically, at predefined locations using conventional nondestructive evaluation methods. However, this maintenance strategy can do little when flaws are induced or become critical between two maintenance inspections. In addition, the intricate network of pipes, some of which operating at very high temperature, makes periodic inspection neither trivial nor inexpensive. In this project, we propose a new transduction mechanism that can be used to monitor continuously the pipes of interests. The transducer consists of four main components: a chain of a few millimeter spherical particles able to sustain the propagation of highly nonlinear solitary waves; a mechanism to trigger the waves in the chain; an embedded sensor to detect the waves; a hardware system to process in-situ the data and transmit valuable information wirelessly. The research hypothesis is that certain characteristics of the waves are dependent on the thickness of the pipe. If the hypothesis will be validated, the new transducer will allow the continuous monitoring of the structure of interest without plant shutdown, and will not suffer from data fidelity due to high-temperature operation or variability associated with coupling mechanism. Ultimately, the proposed transducer shall enable the remote measurement of the wall thickness of pipes operating at any temperature and at any location, above and below ground. While studying the fundamental principles of this new transducer to address the engineering problem of pipe bursts, the investigators will explore the feasibility of the transducer, opportunely downscaled and designed, at measuring the intraocular pressure of the human eye. The objective is to allow glaucoma patients to perform frequent self-measurement of their intraocular pressure without the burden of clinical visits. This will benefit the millions of patients that suffer from glaucoma, an age-related disease and the second leading cause of blindness in the world. To this end, this project represents the initial step towards the development of a new portable tonometer for self-measurements to allow glaucoma patients capturing the spontaneous circadian rhythm of the eye pressure.

The two main technological innovations that are expected from the scientific advancements of this project are: (1) a new transducer for the remote measurement of metallic pipe thickness operating at any temperature and at any location; and (2) a new trans-palpebral tonometer to perform self-measurements anywhere anytime. The research team is formed by an expert in solitary wave propagation and nondestructive evaluation an expert in the electronic development of electrochemical sensors and an eye care professional with experience in glaucoma and cataract surgery. A graduate student and a post-doc will work on the project. Many graduates and undergraduates will be impacted as well, a plan to incorporate a few laboratory sessions in their cross-listed courses. Following a consolidated record of activities, the Investigators are committed to educating the youngest through outreach activities, volunteering, or judging at international competitions. Finally, the project results will be presented at international conferences and disseminated through peer-reviewed publications.

Source: National Science Foundation

Term: September 1, 2018 – August 31, 2021 (Estimated)

Amount: $360,000