Our group is developing low-cost and low-power irrigation systems, with a focus on drip irrigation. Drip irrigation reduces water consumption by up to 60% and increases yield by 20-50% compared to conventional flood irrigation, which loses a significant amount of water to evaporation, runoff and infiltration. Irrigation is accountable for 75- 80% of the freshwater use for most countries, hence large-scale adoption of drip irrigation would reduce the consumption of freshwater and be an asset for locations around the world experiencing water shortages and large groundwater depletion. Two key barriers to the dissemination of drip irrigation are the high initial cost and lack of electrical grid power to pump water. We aim to create off-grid, solar-powered drip irrigation systems that would be economically viable for over 500 million subsistence farmers in the world.
Drip irrigation involves pumping water through a network of lateral lines with emitters that release the water at target locations. Nearly uniform water distribution in the farm field can be maintained in a system that uses pressure-compensating emitters. The term 'pressure compensating' refers to drip emitters that maintain a constant flow rate independent of the applied pressure above a minimum compensating pressure called the 'activation pressure'. Reducing this activation pressure can drastically reduce the required pumping pressure, thereby reducing the initial capital and operational cost of the systems. We aim to reduce pumping power requirements to the point where solar-powered, off-grid drip systems become an affordable option for small and marginal farmers.
We have developed on-line drippers that have an activation pressure of ~7 times lower than conventional drippers, without requiring major modifications to the manufacturing process. We are currently designing low-pressure versions of in-line emitters. These improvements are predicted to lower the capital cost of a solar-powered drip irrigation system with a surface source by approximately 40%. We will be testing the low-pressure drippers in the Middle East and North Africa — regions where the consumption of freshwater exceeds the natural replenishment rate and which would benefit from irrigation systems that conserve water use and improve farmer productivity. The field trials will compare the efficacy and reliability of the new dripper architectures against conventional drippers and help quantify the benefits of the new technology. In parallel, we are looking into system-level optimization of a drip irrigated farm. This will act as a decision making tool for irrigation companies and farmers to help them design the most optimal irrigation system. This system- level viewpoint will also provide insights into how to reduce power and costs even further from a technological breakthrough perspective.
Modeling the Future of Irrigation: A Parametric Description of Pressure Compensating Drip Irrigation Emitter Performance
Shamshery, P., Wang, R., Tran, D., & Winter, A., PLOS ONE (2017)
Control of Flow Limitation in Flexible Tubes
Wang, R., Lin, T., Shamshery, P. & Winter, A., ASME Journal of Mechanical Design (2016)
Determination of Resistance Factor for Tortuos Paths in Drip Emitters
Narain, J., & Winter, A., 43rd Design Automation Conference ASME IDETC/CIE (2017)
Designing a low activation pressure drip irrigation emitter with constraints for mass manufacturing
Shamshery, P., & Winter, A., 21st Design for Manufacturing and the Life Cycle Conference ASME IDETC/CIE (2016)
A Mathematical Model for Pressure Compensating Emitters
Taylor, K., Shamshery, P., & Winter, A., ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (2015)
A Novel Pressure Compensating Valve for Low-Cost Drip Irrigation
Wiens, J., & Winter, A., 38th Mechanisms and Robotics Conference, ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conference (2014)
Bio-Inspired, Low-Cost, Self-Regulating Valves for Drip Irrigation in Developing Countries
Zimoch, P., Tixier, E., Joshi, A., Hosoi, A.E., & Winter, A., 25th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology, ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (2013)
A Novel Bio-Inspired Pressure Compensating Emitter for Low-Cost Drip Irrigation Systems
Wang, R.Q., Shamshery, P., & Winter, A., World Environmental and Water Resources Congress (2016)
A Respiratory Airway-Inspired Low-Pressure, Self-Regulating Valve for Drip Irrigation.
Wang, R.Q., & Winter, A., APS Meeting (2015)
Validated Analytical Model of a Pressure Compensation Drip Irrigation Emitter
Shamshery, P., Wang, R. Q., Taylor, K., Tran, D., & Winter, A., APS Meeting (2015)
A Missing Puzzle Piece in Murray's Law: the Optimal Angle of Junctions.
Wang, R. Q., Taylor, K., Tran, D., & Winter, A.,APS Division of Fluid Dynamics Meeting (2014)
A hybrid computational and analytical model of irrigation drip emitters
Narain, J., Master's Thesis (MIT, 2017)
Modeling and Designing the Future of Drip Irrigation: A Validated Parametric Analysis Used to Design Low Power, Pressure Compensating Drip Emitters
Shamshery, P., Master's Thesis (MIT, 2016)
Reducing the Power Required for Irrigation: Designing Low-Pressure, Pressure-Compensating Drip Irrigation Emitters and High Efficiency Solar-Powered Pumps for Emerging Markets
Taylor, K., Master's Thesis (MIT, 2015)
Drip irrigation Project under the Spotlight - Watering the world, on MIT News (2017)
Tata Center News (2015)