Defect Detection in Water Pipelines Using Ultrasonic Guided Waves

EPA Contract Number: EPD12038
Title: Defect Detection in Water Pipelines Using Ultrasonic Guided Waves
Investigators: Zhang, Li
Small Business: FBS Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: II
Project Period: June 1, 2012 through May 31, 2014
Project Amount: $299,960
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2012) Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Wastewater and Sustainable Infrastructure , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


The integrity of water piping infrastructures is essential for providing safe drinking water and for the
treatment of wastewater. As pipelines age, they deteriorate,corrode, and crack. Existing techniques,
such as visual observation and closed circuit TV, for assessing piping integrity are expensive and have
difficulty accessing particular regions of piping structures. Ultrasonic guided waves, on the other
hand, have the capability of penetrating multi-layered structures, such as pipes with concrete linings.
This makes it possible to detect defects under concrete lining that can be difficult to find using visual
observation and closed circuit TV. Another associated problem is axial crack detection in large
diameter water pipes. Ultrasonic guided waves propagating in pipe circumferential directions have an
innate sensitivity to axial cracks. During the Phase 1 portion of this project, we demonstrated the
feasibility of axial crack detection using circumferential guided waves and defect detection in a
concrete lined pipe using axial guided waves. In Phase II, we will focus on the development of two
prototype systems. One is a circumferential guided wave tool that is capable of detecting axial cracks
by traveling through the inside of a steel water pipe. The other combines guided wave focusing
techniques with the recently developed magnetostrictive sensors for defect screening of concrete lined
water lines. Magnetostrictive sensors are flexible, robust, light-weight, and low cost. They are also
capable of producing strong guided wave energy in pipelines. FBS has extensive experience with
piping defect detection using long range ultrasonic guided waves; acquired through ONR, DOT, and
EPRI sponsored work. We recognize the need for reliable,  economic, and safe inspection solutions for
the maintenance and assessment of water piping. The proposed work builds on FBS accomplishments
to date. The work is dedicated to an economic implementation of the proposed inspection method(s).
We believe that the " intelligence" necessary to develop the two prototype systems can be bundled into
a hand held device interfaced with a compact ultrasonic package and/or with a commercially available
platform [Pipe Inspection Gear, or PIG) that travels inside water pipes.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report

  • SBIR Phase I:

    In-Situ Imaging of Water Pipelines Using Ultrasonic Guided Waves