This study presents the design and validation of on-line pressure-compensating (PC) drip irrigation emitters with a substantially lower minimum compensating inlet pressure (MCIP) than commercially available products. A reduced MCIP, or activation pressure, results in a drip irrigation system that can operate at a reduced pumping pressure, has lower power and energy requirements, requires a lower initial capital cost, and facilitates solar-powered irrigation systems. The technology presented herein can help spread drip irrigation to remote regions and contribute to reducing poverty, particularly in developing countries. The activation pressures of drip emitters at three flow rates were minimized using a genetic algorithm (GA)-based optimization method coupled with a recently published fluid–structure interaction analytical model of on-line PC drip emitter performance. The optimization took into account manufacturing constraints and the need to economically retrofit existing machines to manufacture new emitters. Optimized PC drip emitter designs with flow rates of 3.3, 4.2, and 8.2 lph were validated using precision machined prototype emitters. The activation pressure for all was ≤0.2 bar, which is as low as 16.7% that of commercial products. A limited production run of injection molded 8.2 lph dripper prototypes demonstrated they could be made with conventional manufacturing techniques. These drippers had an activation pressure of 0.15 bar. A cost analysis showed that low MCIP drip emitters can reduce the cost of solar-powered drip irrigation systems by up to 40%.

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