Research delivers on in-pipe water turbulence destabilisation

Posted 5 April 2018

With the demands of the water-energy nexus mounting against utilities, a spout of recent research has found a way to dramatically reduce the amount of energy needed to pump water through pipes. 

Researchers from the the Institute of Science and Technology Austria [ST Austria] have found a way to reduce energy input – potentially by as much as 95% – by destabilising in-pipe water turbulence. 

The water flowing through the centre of a pipe moves faster due to less friction, which in turn causes turbulence as the water forms vortices. 

The researchers’ aim was to create a laminar flow within the pipe – a liquid flowing in efficient parallel layers with no disruption – thereby reducing the amount of energy needed to keep the water moving. 

The study took aim at the differential drag experienced by liquid in contact with pipe walls by installing rotors at various points along a pipe, which then reduces the velocity difference between water in different areas. 

Researcher Jakob Kuhnen told Cosmos that the study has proven that laminar flows within pipes can be achieved, a huge step forward for pipe and water management technology. 

“Nobody knew that it was possible to get rid of turbulence in practice. We have now proven that it can be done. This opens up new possibilities to develop applications for pipelines,” he said. 

While there is still substantial development work to complete before the technology can be scaled up to market, Kuhnen added that the researchers have taken out patents on the designs in confidence of industry interest. 

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