Source: Pliant Energy Systems LLC submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Jul 1, 2013
Project End Date
Feb 28, 2014
Grant Year
Project Director
Recipient Organization
Pliant Energy Systems LLC
63 Flushing Ave, Unit 195
Brooklyn,NY 11205
Performing Department
Non Technical Summary
The company intends the Ribbon Pump to be an economically sustainable technology; a version will be developed that can be manufactured, distributed and installed at a price and operating cost which is accessible to the most resource constrained farmers in less developed countries without subsidy. With conventional pumping technologies generally unaffordable, the poorest farmers, subsistence farmers and smallholders in less developed countries often rely on human powered water lifting systems to irrigate gardens and water livestock, severely limiting the area they can water and the stock they can keep. The Ribbon Pump design is ideally suited to meet the need for a water lifting technology that is scalable and affordable for these farmers to buy, install and run. The initial design goal is for the Ribbon Pump to raise 1900 gallons of water per day (1.3 gpm) up to 50ft in elevation. Using drip irrigation systems, 1900 gallons of water/day can, for example, meet the peak daily irrigation requirement for 0.4 Acres of tomatoes on 6 rows under Floridas growing conditions. Irrigation can increase the growing season and improve the rate of value-added by labor. Very small farms (under five acres) contribute significantly to the global food budget. Sample figures from recent years show small farms providing 40% of Indias food grain production, 49% of Kenyas total food production and 57% of meat production in Russia. Technologies which increase the productivity of such farms can therefore contribute significantly to the regional and global food supplies. Introducing suitable technologies to entrepreneurial farmers can therefore have a multiplier effect on aggregate agricultural productivity and on mitigation of hunger and food insecurity. Measures to exclude livestock from stream banks are intended in part to reduce water contamination and turbidity locally and to reduce the costs, energy, and carbon emissions expended on water treatment downstream to remove nitrates bacteria and other contaminants originating from livestock in the water. Provision of alternative livestock watering points is a prerequisite to implementing livestock exclusion measures along stream banks. The Ribbon Pump is designed to pump water from fenced-off streams to alternative watering points at lower cost than existing alternatives. By lowering the cost of livestock exclusion, a successful Ribbon Pump would accelerate the implementation of such measures. The Ribbon Pump is proposed to lower the cost of installing watering points for cattle. Management intensive rotational grazing (MIRG) is a husbandry method which may have environmental advantages over high-intensity livestock management under certain conditions.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
The installation and maintenance of water distribution infrastructure is critical to the economic and environmental performance of many agricultural production systems. Technologies which increase the practicality and lower the cost and environmental impact of obtaining and distributing water are therefore of interest to agriculturalists. The Ribbon Pump, invented by Pliant Energy Systems founder, Benjamin Pietro Filardo, harnesses hydrokinetic energy through the motion of undulating flexible components which undergo cycles of deformation when placed in flowing water. The movement of these flexible components under the pressure of flowing water creates within the device a corresponding series of moving cavities into which water is drawn and ejected under pressure through an outlet pipe. The companys objective for this project is to develop a Ribbon Pump capable of elevating 1.3 gpm of water up to 50ft. By completion of this Phase I R and D project, the companys objective is to have developed the tools and acquired the data necessary to determine the technical feasibility of fabricating such a pump. The projected advantages of the Ribbon Pump compared to, for example, a sling pump, include the capacity to operate in shallow flows (4" deep) at variable speeds; reduced vulnerability to entanglement, reduced vulnerability to fouling and surface ice; reduced bulk, weight and cost, and greater operational safety and versatility.
Project Methods
Tests on one simplified and one improved prototype will be conducted at the beginning and end of the project. Computer modelling will be done in the Scientific Computation Research Center (SCOREC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute which operates an IBM BlueGene-Q supercomputer and combined with numerical modeling by the company. The mechanical principles brought to bear in this technology are not yet well understood due to the complex nature of non-linear systems. Nevertheless, early prototype testing of the main components have shown them to be viable. The numerical modelling work performed during the program will contribute to the understanding of non-linear mechanical systems in general, so will be of value even if the pump itself proves not to be a commercially viable technology.

Progress 07/01/13 to 02/28/14

Target Audience: Nothing Reported Changes/Problems: Nothing Reported What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided? Nothing Reported How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest? At this time, disclosing the outputsof research and development conducted under this award could jeopardize Pliant's ability tocompetitively manufacture and sell the Ribbon Pump (TM), especially in markets where it wouldprove difficult or impossible to enforce our patents on the technology. As such, we have not published or otherwise disseminated the results of our research. Our work on fluid-structure interaction with our collaborators at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute will eventually be of interest to a broad community, but we have not reached a point in that work where significant publication is appropriate. We have agreed to let RPI disseminate the results of their fluid-structure-interaction modeling so long as they give us 30 days notice and the oportunity to request changes where such changes are deemed important to protect our proprietary information. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals? Nothing Reported

What was accomplished under these goals? Wehave determinedthat theRibbon Pump(TM) is technically feasible andhave developed a number of design and engineering evaluation tools relevant to optimizing the pump going forward. We have experimentally determined many important aspects of detailed pump design and ribbon material choice for good mechanical operation. We have experimentallytested the mechanical operation of anumber of prototypes of theRibbon Pump(TM) in a controlled water flowenvironment, a towing tank at Stevens Institute of Technology. During this testing we gathered data on hydrodynamic drag and undulation frequency that allow us to estimate the maximum hydrodynamic power that the pump can extract from the flow. We also developed a pumping system coupled to the ribbon motions and tested it by manually actuating the pump ribbons in the lab. We were not able to test the full pump prototype in the towing tank during this Phase I research, but our actuation in the lab matched the towing test data as closely as practical, and we believe it is a good estimate of the pump performance to date. In pump development to date, we have not achievedthe stated long-term goal of1.3GPM flow to a head of 50 feet, but expect that further product development will allow us to improve on our best results to date of 0.1GPMto 15 feet. Available power estimates from the drag and undulation period measurements for thecurrent prototype configuration suggest that the pump can extractenough power from the flowing stream to meet the original head and flow rate goal. Because of this, webelieve that achieving the goal head and flow is amatter of detailed engineering to improve the power transferred to the pumping action from the flowing water. Our modeling and testing during this Phase I project leaves us confident that further technical and commercial development of the Ribbon Pump (TM) is feasible.