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According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 20% of clean water being pumped around the world leaks through the pipes every day. In the U.S. alone, that is about 6 billion gallons of clean water per day not only going to waste but also causing damages as they can cause sinkholes, burst pipes, and destroy walls.

The currently available technology for detecting water pipes leakage exacerbates the problem as it can only discover the leak when already significant damage has taken place. Sometimes, the leak goes undetected completely.

Well, there is a new soft robot that could solve this leaking problem. It has already bagged the 2018 James Dyson Award, a competition held to celebrate up-and-coming innovators and inventors. This robot was created by You Wu, a recent doctorate graduate from the MIT.

The robot, called Lighthouse, is a low-cost bot that has been designed to travel through water pipes in search of leakages. All one needs is to insert the Lighthouse bot inside a water pipe using already available hydrants. The bot will then passively flow along the piping, navigating around the pipe elbows, and discover any leakage through the suction force that comes with the puncture.

Once it has discovered a puncture, it will measure the suction force and record its location. The technician will then retrieve the robot by flushing out the pipe using a hydrant, and then wirelessly download the map of the pipe with the leakage location being shown.

During an interview with a section of the media, the inventor of the Lighthouse, Wu, said: “Winning the James Dyson Award is a great recognition of my six years of effort to solve the world’s water loss problem through engineering and design.

This summer, I built my company WatchTower Robotics, with the technology coming out of this project. The James Dyson Award is bringing publicity to my company at the perfect time. It will connect us with potential customers, team members, partners, and investors. Moreover, it will help us educate the public that the 20% water loss is a real and common problem – and now we have a technology to address it effectively.”

1st and 2nd Place runners-up to the James Dyson Award

The first place runners-up was Infinite Cooling, a startup with the technology that safely harnesses water use in power plants cooling tower plumes. The second runners-up, Night Loo, is a portable urinal designed for use by women and girls living in refugee camps.

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