A low-cost sensor designed to monitor water transmission pipe without the need for an external power supply has been engineered by academic researchers in Ireland. The flexible glycine-based sensors for pipe leak detection and monitoring use highly sensitive, eco-friendly crystals that generate an electrical signal in response to a leak.

The bio-based piezoelectric patches composed of crystallized amino acids are sensitive enough to detect leaks as small as 2 mm. The material generates electricity in response to vibration, strain or other forces for real-time leak detection, monitoring and localization in water pipes based on the leak-induced negative Glycine-based sensors detect the presence and location of leaks. Source: Favour Okosun et al.Glycine-based sensors detect the presence and location of leaks. Source: Favour Okosun et al.pressure wave propagation. The sensors are effective for leak detection in metal pipes and for continuous monitoring of a worsening leak condition over time.

Amplitude-based signal analysis during tests was demonstrated to successfully locate a leak region, and time-based leak localization analysis confirmed that the fabricated glycine sensors can localize leaks in metal pipes to an almost exact position along the pipe length.

The glycine crystal sensors feature much higher sensitivity than commonly used polyvinylidene difluoride polymer film patches. A paper on the research conducted by scientists from University College Dublin and University of Limerick is published in Cell Reports Physical Science.

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