Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



Robot Corps to Repair Nation's Water Mains

Fibrwrap Construction, FYFE Company and the University of Californai will develop robots to repair water mains.With over two million miles of aging water mains to maintain, the U.S. is on the brink of a water supply precipice.  A modest project seeded with just a few thousand dollars could go a long way to resolving the crisis, by developing robotic water main repair devices that can work much faster than human crews.


The real kicker is the ability of small robotic devices to reach inside small pipes as well as the larger human-sized water mains.  Water supply robots are already in use for inspection purposes.  It’s a more sustainable approach that would practically eliminate the need to excavate thousands of miles of water mains for repair or replacement.  In turn, that would make a significant dent in carbon emissions from earth-moving machines and other utility streetwork.

Water Mains and Carbon Fiber

The seed money comes from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Technology Innovation Program for small businesses.  It was awarded to a partnership spearheaded by carbon fiber industry leaders Fibrwrap Construction, Inc. and FYFE Company, along with robotics experts at the University of California.  The companies already use proprietary coatings of carbon fiber, polymers, glass, and other materials that can be bonded to the interior of a water main, but to date the work has been limited to pipes of 36 diameters or more.

Water Mains and Robots

Fibrwrap estimates that a robotic device could lay its carbon fiber material 11 times faster than a human crew, but the real challenge is dealing with the flaws, unusual shapes and uneven surfaces typical of older water mains and pipes.   The team will focus on developing sensors that can monitor the contact pressure between the application device and the interior of the water main, and synchronize that with the motion of the robot.

The Limits of Robotic Water Main Repair

Robotic repair could go a long way toward boosting conservation in public water supply systems, which has lagged far behind the agricultural and energy generating sectors.  But robots will be helpless when it comes to fighting off another critical problem for the U.S. water supply, the emergence and spread of destructive mining and drilling practices that could contaminate underground aquifers as well as rivers and streams.

Image: Robot by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino23 via parl on

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


You May Also Like


After stumbling on biofuel, algae finds its footing and steps up to help the concrete industry cut its carbon footprint, too.

Climate Change

Steel will not remotely be a constraint for global transformation of energy over the coming decades. We make vastly more of it per year...

Clean Power

With more scrapping and more direct reduction using lower carbon technologies such as Midrex' DRI and HYBRIT every decade, and the likely creation of those...

Clean Transport

A new type of autonomous electric train is on track to electrify the US freight rail network and push diesel trucks off the highways,...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.