North Dakota Patent of the Month – May 2021

Current methods of identifying non-metallic subterranean structures have been so far unreliable. Since they aren’t metal, they don’t have a magnetic signature and they are non-conductive which removes the typical metal-based detection methods. These non-metallic structures could include PVC pipe, fiberglass, septic system components and so on. Current methods include preemptively placing a colored plastic sheet or tape over the pipe – but this requires overturning the surrounding earth to locate it. The Energy and Environmental Research Center Foundation (EERC) has designed a method using amorphous metal markers to help identify these non-metallic structures.

Their design uses an amorphous metal foil as a marker. In this case, the amorphous metal foil is made of a metal alloy that has a high magnetic relative permeability. The marker will be held in a protective enclosure so that it does not contact the surrounding earth which could lead to corrosion or degradation from exposure. The metal foil can be placed around the pipes or next to whatever the structure of interest is. Then detection can be done using a magnetic gradiometer. This gradiometer is a simple, and cost effective detector which can easily and accurately detect the metal’s magnetic signature.

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