Drip irrigation has the potential to decrease water consumption and increase crop yields and profit. Globally, drip irrigation has had low adoption rates. There are several major barriers to adoption, including the cost of the system and its energy consumption. Mathematical models describing the behavior of drip emitters can provide insights on the performance of drip systems. The models and procedures developed in this paper can be used as a tool for the design of improved drip irrigation systems.

This paper presents a method of combining a CFD model that characterizes flow through the tortuous paths of emitters with an analytical model describing pressure-compensating behavior. The CFD model detailed in this paper was verified for three commercially available emitter designs. The model fell within acceptable variation bounds when compared to experimental data. The results of CFD analysis are represented in a resistance factor that can be used in a hybrid analytical-computational model. This method requires significantly less processing than using computational models alone.

Future work on this topic will detail an analytical model that accurately predicts the behavior of inline PC drip emitters of varying geometries and an optimization of the geometry to lower activation pressure and material costs. Analytical models to predict the flow behavior of a range of tortuous path designs given a prescribed geometry will also be developed.

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