What is your technology?
InfinitPipe®, is the latest innovative product developed by QuakeWrap Inc. and allows the construction of a pipeline of any size and shape, directly on-site. For decades, pipelines have been built in short segments in factories and shipped to the site where they are joined to form a continuous pipeline. This is a very inefficient approach that results in a high cost of transportation (especially for larger diameter pipes). The joints of these pipes often leak and are a major maintenance issue. The corrosion of steel in metallic and concrete pipes is another concern that shortens the life expectancy of pipes.
Using the patented InfinitPipe® technology, layers of resin-saturated glass or carbon fabric are wrapped around a mandrel in the field; the mandrel is heated and within a few minutes, the pipe is fully cured. As the Mobile Manufacturing Unit (MMU) travels along a road or trench, it leaves a continuous pipe behind. The development of InfinitPipe® has been supported through Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grants from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The lightweight MMU can be shipped in a half container to anywhere in the world where the pipe is needed.
The best applications of InfinitPipe® are in projects where water or other fluids must be conveyed over long distances with a limited number of fittings, service connections, etc. Other applications include the lining of wells and irrigations canals to prevent loss of water due to seepage and evaporation.
What are the benefits of implementing your technology?
The patented InfinitPipe® technology offers several advantages. The pipe is made of high-strength non-metallic Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) materials that do not corrode, resulting in much longer service life for the pipe. By changing the type and number of layers of fabric being wrapped around the mandrel, the strength of the pipe can be easily adjusted along the length of the pipeline. This not only results in a more economical pipe, but it also achieves a more uniform factor of safety along the pipeline.
InfinitPipe® eliminates virtually all joints that are a major source of leaks and maintenance concerns in conventional pipes. The materials and the MMU can be shipped in compact containers globally to build a pipe on site. This will not only reduce transportation costs compared to shipping factory-made pipe segments but will also allow building pipes in remote locations and developing nations worldwide. The MMU can be installed on a flatbed and pulled with a tractor or truck. In many cases, there is no need for existing roadway infrastructure, making this technique an ideal solution for pipeline construction in remote sites, long distances, or developing countries. InfinitPipe® weighs about 10% of conventional pipes and its unique sandwich-construction design that utilizes a light-weight material for the wall of the pipe received the 2016 Innovation Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers as the world’s first green and sustainable pipe.
Has the technology been tested, demonstrated, or implemented anywhere to date?
The novelty of our concept is the automation of the process to build an MMU that allows the continuous construction of the pipe on site. The first generation of the MMU was developed with internal funds to demonstrate the proof of concept. Financial support through two Phase I SBIR Grants from the US National Science Foundation and the Department of Agriculture has further advanced this project. As part of those projects, many aspects of the pipe such as internal pressure rating, resistance to overburden pressure and impact loads, etc. were evaluated. Those studies have proven the strength and efficiency of the pipe that matches or surpasses other pipes.
A current (2019-2021) Phase II SBIR Grant from the USDA is supporting additional testing and building of the first MMU prototype. The design of the MMU is complete and the prototype is being constructed with an expected completion date of November 2020. The new design includes major advances compared to the first unit shown in the above video.
While automating the construction of the pipe in the field is very new, QuakeWrap Inc. has built similar pipes by hand in recent years and those pipes have been successfully used in several projects. Among these are two projects in Australia where 1500-mm (59-in.) diameter pipes have been constructed locally and used to repair corrosion-damaged culverts in remote sites for Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads in June 2015; the project is described in this video: https://tinyurl.com/yck3q635 . Following the success of that project, another larger culvert has been repaired with this technique and several other projects are being designed that utilize this technology. In another application, twenty nine 910-mm (36-in.) diameter steel pipes were repaired in a power plant in Puerto Rico.
What are some of the next steps needed to advance the technology?
QuakeWrap Inc. has recently entered a contract with an engineering/manufacturing company in Arizona to design and build the new MMU. The design of the MMU is complete and the finished product is scheduled to be delivered in November 2020. The first unit is capable of building pipes with diameters ranging from 150 to 500 mm (6-20 in.). At that time, the MMU can be tested and barring any unforeseen problems, the product can be offered for use in pilot projects.
In parallel with the development of the MMU, additional tests are being performed to determine the bending radius of InfinitPipe®; such information may be helpful in certain projects.
A further advancement in this technology is embedding fiberoptic sensors into the pipe. These fibers can be wrapped around the pipe during the manufacturing process. A single fiber can be used to determine the longitudinal and hoop stresses in the wall of the pipe at various locations. This will warn the pipe owners/operators of any overstress situations so they may take appropriate measures to avert potential failure of the pipe. This feature is a major enhancement in the future of the pipeline construction and health-monitoring industries that is not easily afforded by other pipes. Such monitoring system may also prove beneficial for those initial adopters of InfinitPipe® who may have concerns about using this new technology.
As the MMU becomes available this fall, LIFT can be instrumental in introducing the game-changing InfinitPipe® technology to its members. Our hope is that the dissemination of this information will result in identifying potential pilot projects in the coming year where the technology can be utilized and demonstrated in actual field conditions. Potential projects can include the construction of new pipes for water, wastewater, irrigation canals, the lining of wells, etc. Additional applications include the lining of existing deteriorated pipes and culvert. As a growing small business concern, QuakeWrap Inc. is also seeking strategic partners for the introduction of this technology worldwide. LIFT can play a significant role in raising awareness and introducing this technology to its global audience.Mo Ehsani, Ph.D., PE, SEPresidentQuakeWrap Inc.