InfoSense, Inc., a small business that received early funding from the National Science Foundation, has developed a technology that helps keep sewer pipes clog-free. The company, which is spun out of University of North Carolina at Charlotte and was supported by the NSF Small Business Innovation Research program, has commercialized a device based on fundamental science and engineering research.

The technology is based on the transmission and processing of sound waves. A speaker lowered through a manhole sends acoustical waves through a pipe to a receiver on the other end. An algorithm processes the signal and determines to what degree clogs or other defects may be obstructing the pipe. Over 130 cities around the globe are already using the device, called the Sewer Line Rapid Assessment Tool, or SL-RAT. Due to its ease of operation and speed, the tool can complement and help better focus the deployment of currently used robotic cameras and cleaning equipment.

Ivan Howitt, InfoSense chief technology officer and founder, says the technology is an elegant example of how innovative new solutions can help industry solve old problems. The project is one of many examples of NSF-funded research and technology that take smarter, more innovative approaches to making local and national infrastructure safer, cleaner and more resilient.

Credit: NSF