Research led by Paul Ohodnicki, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, recently received $1 million in funding to utilize Pitt-developed optical fiber sensor technology as the “nerves” of critical infrastructure, such as natural gas pipelines, to mimic the principle of a nervous system. Ohodnicki also teaches in the electrical and computer engineering department.
The research will embed optical fiber sensors internal to the pipeline to create an “innervated” pipeline system that enables monitoring the integrity of the pipes through acoustic and vibrational signatures of defects. By combining the embedded sensors with artificial intelligence and machine learning and integrating into an overarching digital twin of the pipeline system, an “intelligent” pipeline can be realized that allows for targeted in-situ repairs of defects. It utilizes an emerging robotic crawler deployable technology, known as “cold-spray,” with reduced downtime and dramatically reduced repair costs.
The team also plans to develop an economic model for in-situ repair and sensor-embedded coating technology as well as a detailed set of modifications to the existing and standard regulatory requirements required for commercialization.