New radar-technology can detect possible sinkholes in flood-prone areas

by Michael Mosher on July 26, 2012

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FutureScan, a new radar system part of the latest civil engineering technology at Louisiana Tech University, will be demonstrated for the first time publicly in Slidell on August 1, said Slidell Councilman, District F representative, and Tech-alumnus Jay Newcomb.

The radar technology, which has been spearheaded by Tech Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Dr. Erez Allouche and a team of researchers in Ruston, has the potential of solving a national problem—the formation of sinkholes in public roadways.

Allouche’s research team has spent the last half-year in Ruston at Tech experimenting with an array of pipe materials, mostly clay pipes, in order to get FutureScan up to par for civilian use.

All over the country, transportation departments and construction crews have had to deal with the mess that follows collapsed streets. Sewers and pipelines laid down some 50 to 100 years ago are cracking, leaking, and causing concrete to break. Over time the asphalt drops and what is left is a water-filled hole so large that a 5-foot, 8-inch person could tour beneath the surface. Researchers say FutureScan will be able to locate soil voids near pipelines before they lead to ruptures in streets and potentially damage other facets of infrastructure.

That’s not all FutureScan is said to be capable of.

The system, which uses an electromagnetic technique called ultra-wideband technology, will be mounted on a standard four-wheel robot. It can potentially not only detect the presence of voids and other anomalies, but can also provide information and data regarding water quality and the thickness of pipe walls. But why is the density of pipe walls important? Data regarding the thickness of pipe walls can be used to detect the presence and extent of corrosion a pipe has undergone. Allouche says this is extremely important because currently there are no ways to detect exterior corrosion on pipelines.

The associate professor of civil engineering has said that he’s comfortable with his team’s findings and is eager to give a presentation in Slidell, an area Allouche studied immensely following Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge.

“It’s been progressing everyday. We’ve been using radar to detect things in the open sky for many years, but working with radar in a very tight space with pipes is very challenging,” said Allouche.

Allouche studied the effects of flood damage on buried infrastructure in Slidell and other towns affected by Katrina. He published his findings in a report titled “Assessing the Damage,” which goes into great detail about how hurricanes can directly and indirectly damage sewage, utilities, and underground networks.

The report noted five main mechanisms that damaged buried pipe following the notorious August 2005 hurricane, including: wind, surge flooding, saltwater contamination, the shifting of surface structures, and cleanup and restoration efforts.

Newcombe says he hopes FutureScan can help prove to FEMA that damaged pipes in the city of Slidell is a result of Mother Nature, or Katrina.

“It will help prove our point to FEMA that a lot of this (sewage) damage is storm related,” said Newcomb. “Voids around underground utilities do not fix themselves; they continue to grow. When they reach the surface as a sinkhole, the results can be dangerous and expensive.

The sinkholes can also clog pipes and back up sewage into homes and businesses.

The research project involving FutureScan has been a collaboration between the City of Slidell, Tech’s civil engineering department and CUES Inc., a sewer and pipeline inspection company out of Orlando, Fla. CUES has also helped fund the project and a $3.2 million grant for the project came in through the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Technology Innovation Program.

Stuart Consulting Group is coordinating the demonstration of FutureScan’s prototype on behalf of the City of Slidell.

Demonstrations will be held August 1-3. A preliminary examination of sites where crews plan to launch FutureScan will be done on July 31.

Stuart Consulting has recommended the city conduct the groundbreaking demonstration starting at the corner of Southpark and Brookwood Drive. From there, the robot would continue Carey Street and end at Rosa Street.

Officials say FutureScan equipment won’t be visible most of the time because it will be deployed inside drainage pipelines.

It may take roughly a week for Tech researchers to evaluate data following the Slidell demonstrations. The findings and recommendations of FutureScan’s experiments would be presented to Slidell city officials sometime in mid-to-late August.

FutureScan, a new radar system part of the latest civil engineering technology at Louisiana Tech University, will be demonstrated for the first time publicly in Slidell on August 1, said Slidell Councilman, District F representative, and Tech-alumnus Jay Newcomb.

The radar technology, which has been spearheaded by Tech Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Dr. Erez Allouche and a team of researchers in Ruston, has the potential of solving a national problem—the formation of sinkholes in public roadways.

Allouche’s research team has spent the last half-year in Ruston at Tech experimenting with an array of pipe materials, mostly clay pipes, in order to get FutureScan up to par for civilian use.

All over the country, transportation departments and construction crews have had to deal with the mess that follows collapsed streets. Sewers and pipelines laid down some 50 to 100 years ago are cracking, leaking, and causing concrete to break. Over time the asphalt drops and what is left is a water-filled hole so large that a 5-foot, 8-inch person could tour beneath the surface. Researchers say FutureScan will be able to locate soil voids near pipelines before they lead to ruptures in streets and potentially damage other facets of infrastructure.

That’s not all FutureScan is said to be capable of.

The system, which uses an electromagnetic technique called ultra-wideband technology, will be mounted on a standard four-wheel robot. It can potentially not only detect the presence of voids and other anomalies, but can also provide information and data regarding water quality and the thickness of pipe walls. But why is the density of pipe walls important? Data regarding the thickness of pipe walls can be used to detect the presence and extent of corrosion a pipe has undergone. Allouche says this is extremely important because currently there are no ways to detect exterior corrosion on pipelines.

The associate professor of civil engineering has said that he’s comfortable with his team’s findings and is eager to give a presentation in Slidell, an area Allouche studied immensely following Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge.

“It’s been progressing everyday. We’ve been using radar to detect things in the open sky for many years, but working with radar in a very tight space with pipes is very challenging,” said Allouche.

Allouche studied the effects of flood damage on buried infrastructure in Slidell and other towns affected by Katrina. He published his findings in a report titled “Assessing the Damage,” which goes into great detail about how hurricanes can directly and indirectly damage sewage, utilities, and underground networks.

The report noted five main mechanisms that damaged buried pipe following the notorious August 2005 hurricane, including: wind, surge flooding, saltwater contamination, the shifting of surface structures, and cleanup and restoration efforts.

Newcombe says he hopes FutureScan can help prove to FEMA that damaged pipes in the city of Slidell is a result of Mother Nature, or Katrina.

“It will help prove our point to FEMA that a lot of this (sewage) damage is storm related,” said Newcomb. “Voids around underground utilities do not fix themselves; they continue to grow. When they reach the surface as a sinkhole, the results can be dangerous and expensive.

The sinkholes can also clog pipes and back up sewage into homes and businesses.

The research project involving FutureScan has been a collaboration between the City of Slidell, Tech’s civil engineering department and CUES Inc., a sewer and pipeline inspection company out of Orlando, Fla. CUES has also helped fund the project and a $3.2 million grant for the project came in through the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Technology Innovation Program.

Stuart Consulting Group is coordinating the demonstration of FutureScan’s prototype on behalf of the City of Slidell.

Demonstrations will be held August 1-3. A preliminary examination of sites where crews plan to launch FutureScan will be done on July 31.

Stuart Consulting has recommended the city conduct the groundbreaking demonstration starting at the corner of Southpark and Brookwood Drive. From there, the robot would continue Carey Street and end at Rosa Street.

Officials say FutureScan equipment won’t be visible most of the time because it will be deployed inside drainage pipelines.

It may take roughly a week for Tech researchers to evaluate data following the Slidell demonstrations. The findings and recommendations of FutureScan’s experiments would be presented to Slidell city officials sometime in mid-to-late August.

Full article…here

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