University of Washington Creates Paper that can Conduct Electricity and Prevent Water Leaks

In *All, Technology, Water Security by Ag is America

Water leaks are such a pain when they happen in your house, but even more of an issue when they occur in cities and large-scale manufacturing pipes. The American Water Works Association indicates that nearly a quarter-million water line breaks occur each year across the country, costing public water utilities about $2.8 billion annually.

The University of Washington wants to help the process of discovering these leaks with their new “smart” paper. These black sheets are laced with conductive nanomaterials that can fully conduct electricity. This possibility allows the paper to serve as a switch, turn on or off an LED light, or activate an alarm system when there’s an absence or presence of water.

“Water sensing is very challenging to do due to the polar nature of water, and what is used now is very expensive and not practical to implement,” said lead author Anthony Dichiara, a UW assistant professor of bioresource science and engineering in the School of Environment and Forest Sciences. “That led to the reason to pursue this work.”

The discovery that the paper could detect the presence of water was a total accident. As the paper sat in the lab, water droplets splashed onto it, causing the LED light indicating conductivity to turn off. The researchers had thought the ruined the paper, but to their pleasant surprise, they had created a paper that was sensitive to water. The team is now exploring the various ways to use the paper to help buildings protect their pipes.

To learn more about this new tool and its helpful applications, read more here.

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