Improving the performance of water meters
Submitting InstitutionBrunel University
Unit of AssessmentAeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Chemical Sciences: Macromolecular and Materials Chemistry
Engineering: Chemical Engineering, Materials Engineering
Summary of the impact
Research has led to improvements in the performance over 16 million water
meters manufactured by Elster Metering Ltd. since 2008, extending their
working lifetimes and reducing maintenance costs. In particular, research
on polymeric replacements for the glass in water meters helped Elster
establish their product development strategy, and led to changes in the
manufactured meter. Brunel University research identifying a specific set
of acetal polymers that reduce the degradation of the bodies in water
meters has been incorporated in 1.8 million water meters. These meters
have less embodied carbon dioxide, and are less prone to theft than the
meter with brass components they replace. This innovation allowed Elster
to reduce the costs of manufacturing in the UK, thereby maintaining a
strong competitive position within the market for water meters.
Elster Metering Ltd. is an international company specialising in advanced
metering infrastructure, installing intelligent metering to the gas,
electricity and water industries worldwide. Prof Tarverdi, Director of
Extrusion Technology at Brunel University, was approached by Elster in
2003 to help identify the factors influencing the wear and fatigue in the
moving parts in water meters, and develop new materials to improve
installation life-time and reduce maintenance costs. Given his expertise
in polymer processing, mechanical, thermodynamical, microscopic and
elemental analysis, and in using extrusion and injection moulding
technologies, Prof Tarverdi was asked by Elster to provide detailed
information and advice about the composition of the compounds used in
their water meters. This initial relationship with Elster has developed
into a long-term collaborative partnership, and Prof Tarverdi's research
has been continuously used since 2003 to enhance the properties of the
materials for manufacturing and moulding Elster's water meters. During
this time over 20 projects were commissioned and completed by the Brunel
research team. See for instance .
In 2005, Elster wanted to replace some of the metal and glass components
in their meters. To identify replacements for the glass, Prof Tarverdi
examined the effects of using polycarbonate with `nano-clay' . This was
found to prevent moisture ingression, thereby maximising the transparency
of the polycarbonate moulding. This research successfully demonstrated the
potential of the method [3,4].
In 2008/09, Prof Tarverdi further enhanced the compounds used in the
manufacture of the water meters by identifying how potential long term
corrosion in the bodies of the water meter could be prevented. His
research involved exposing a range of polymers to the chemicals in the
water and the intensive rays of the sun (ultra-violet oxidation) to
determine their susceptibility. He identified a specific set of acetal
polymers which demonstrated minimal chemical degradation. In addition, he
provided guidelines for connecting the meters into the water network in
the presence of copper and bronze pipes.
This research demonstrated that some chemicals, which are supposed to
enhance the properties of polymers , were not performing to the
required standard to prevent polymer deterioration and degradation. The
compounds used to manufacture the Elster meters did not seem to have had
the optimum masterbatch (concentrated compounds) to prevent UV oxidation
and degradation of the meters.
This finding has led the Brunel University to successfully apply for the
TSB call `Boosting Innovation in Manufacturing Competencies'. The project,
`Ultrasonically Assisted Compounding for Masterbatch Production' , with
industrial partners Colloids Ltd., Telsonic, Omya, Johnson Matthey and
Elster, aims to enhance existing materbatch productions by using
nano-fillers such as nano-carbon black, pigments and antioxidants through
ultrasonication to achieve maximum dispersion of nano fillers. The new
materbatch, once verified for its effectiveness, will be supplied to
companies like Elster to manufacture their components and assess its
References to the research
1) K. Tarverdi, "Establishing the failure characteristics of small
pistons", Elster Metering Technical Report 2005. Available from Brunel.
2) K. Tarverdi and S. Sontikaew, "Experimental study of extrusion and
surface treatment of organo clay with PET nano-composites", Annual
Technical Conference, Society of Plastic Engineers, ANTEC 2008 Milwaukee
May 4-10, p 1387-1391. http://bura.brunel.ac.uk/handle/2438/7665
4) K. Tarverdi, "Experimental study of extrusion and surface treatment of
organo clay with PET nano-composites", Polymer Process Engineering 2009,
Enhanced Polymer Processing, IRC polymer engineering — University of
Bradford, p 160-172 ISBN: 13-978-1-85143-262-2.
5) K. Tarverdi, "Chemical Attack — Acetal/Zinc Cloride and Creep Test
Programme", Elster Metering Technical Report 2008. Available from Brunel.
6) Technology Strategy Board grant number 101272, August 2013, £981,000.
Details of the impact
Elster Metering have been producing rotating piston meters incorporating
compounds developed with Professor Tarverdi's support since 2003. During
this time approximately 32 million meters have been produced incorporating
these results that have an excellent track record of successful operation.
Of these 16 million were produced since 2008.
Elster report that the research supporting the replacement of a
hermetically sealed glass lens with a polymer version has been very useful
in establishing a long term vision for their product development. In
particular, meters incorporating this feature are now being manufactured
in the Far East and Elster are currently considering incorporating this
feature into meters manufactured in the UK.
The research identifying the acetal polymer as a factor in the reduction
of degradation in the bodies of water meters has had a significant impact.
Elster used the results to decide to accelerate the brass to polymer
change-out program and to revise the compound choice for meters
manufactured for use in Europe and the Middle East. The research was also
used to revise the network application guidelines for their customer's
installers. Elster report that Brunel research enabled them to "maintain a
strongly competitive position from our UK manufacturing base based on
lower costs, reduced embodied CO2 and reduced theft risks
compared with the equivalent brass meter".
The findings from this research were incorporated in the wide scale roll
out of polymer water meter bodies in a range of demanding applications,
including approximately 1.2 million units in the UK, 500 thousand in
northern Europe and 100 thousand in the Middle East. In the Middle East,
the problem of degradation is much more acute, and therefore the benefits
of this development are much more significant.
Sources to corroborate the impact
The Head of Design of Business Unit Water at Elster Metering can be
contacted for the research impact and the sale information of Elster