It sounds unbelievable, but each day around 20 percent of clean water produced in the world is lost as the result of leaky pipes. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, this amounts to an estimated 6 billion gallons of clean water per day in the U.S. alone. The problem is exacerbated by current detection technology, which means that most of the leaks are either not found or discovered too late, after they’ve already caused sinkholes and burst pipes.
A new soft robot may be able to help, however — and it’s just netted the 2018 James Dyson Award, a design competition to celebrate up-and-coming inventors. The award-winning creation is the work of recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) doctoral graduate You Wu. Called Lighthouse, the low-cost bot is designed to travel through water pipes on the hunt for leaks before they turn into major problems.