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Enel –Produzione S.p.a. would like to improve the current methods for inspecting large chimneys in power plants. Currently, chimney inspections are executed by specialized personnel working at heights with scaffolding and taking pictures high resolution cameras. This method is typically time consuming and expensive. The Seeker is looking for alternative ways to remotely inspect chimneys using ready or near ready technology that can lessen these factors. Near ready is defined as something that could be tested within the next 6 months and has feasibility already tested.

Solvers that have the ability to continue to develop the solution after the Challenge are encouraged to submit.


This is a Theoretical Challenge which requires only a written proposal to be submitted



The chimneys used on power plants can be with single or multiple liners (up to a maximum of 4) incorporated inside a reinforced concrete containment structure that can reach up heights of 290 meters. Essentially liners are cylindrical elements, whose diameter is proportional to the flow rate of the exhaust gases. The construction materials could be different: with low temperatures gases, that are not particularly chemically aggressive, mild steel is used; in condition of possible acid condensation (i.e. particularly chemically aggressive), anti-acid tiles or bricks are used for the internal walls.

The general reference characteristics of a chimney are as follows :

  1. 140 – 290 m total height of reinforced concrete structure that enclose up to 4 liners;
  2. In multi-liners chimney the internal diameter of a single liner could measure from 3 up to 6 m;
  3. In single liner chimney the internal diameter could measure from 3 up to 8 m.


Several chimney configurations are shown in the pictures within the Chimney example paragraph of the challenge full description.


Today the accepted practice provide sufficiently clear images to detect the following types of defects:

  • Cracks or breaks in refractory bricks, lack of cement mortar between the bricks;
  • Corrosion of the refractory from acid flows;
  • Joints damages between the refractory sections (only with single liner chimney);
  • Deposits along the flue surface.


Defects are marked with a referenced altitude and position to facilitate the mapping and localization.

Access to the single liner is possible from the top or from the waste gas duct.


This Challenge provides contribution to the following Sustainable Development Goals:

  • SDG 3 - Good health and well being
  • SDG 9 - Industry Innovation and Infrastructure


For questions about the challenge and your proposal you can contact EnelOpenInnovabilityChallenges@innocentive.com




We are looking for an innovative solution to carry out inspections of inner surface of chimney in order to:

  • avoid the execution of inspections by workers at heights;
  • reduce/eliminate the use of scaffoldings or climbers;
  • guarantee high resolution of visual inspections (pictures well defined and lighted, 360° panoramic view);

The solution should be easy to be implemented, also in relation to the difficult operating conditions to reach access points. Design and operative procedure proposed should take into account the difficulty of recovering any objects that fall into the hopper during setup and the execution of inspection.

We require a solution that is ready to be tested within the next 6 months and has feasibility already tested.

(Completely untested solutions would take too much time to perform a complete significant tests within 6 months.)


Chimney examples

Attached are shown pictures of different chimneys structure and the main types of defects that can occur. 

Figure 1 - Chimney with multiple liners

Figure 2 - cone shaped Chimney with antiacid bricks (inside) and concrete shell (outside)

Enclosed also a typical example of a single-liner chimney with refractory bricks consisting of two concentric rings:

  • The external one is made of reinforced concrete (with variable radius and thickness).
  • The internal one is made of refractory brick and it constitutes the liner.

Figure 3 - Detail of a joint

Attached are shown some examples of problems encountered in the chimneys.

Example 1

In the image it is shown the state of health of the mortar between the bricks. It is needed a check in order to evaluate possible filling.

Example 2

In the image there are some dark areas in the wall texture, with evidence of acid dripping that corroded the superficial surface of the refractory bricks.

Example 3

In the image there are fractured refractory elements


Things to Avoid

  1. The Seeker is not interested in solution “ideas” that just describe a potential solution with few or no details. For example, saying “Use a drone with a GPS outfitted with high resolution cameras” is not considered a solution by itself. You must provide which drone, which GPS, which cameras, how they are integrated, why they will work, where they worked previously, etc.
  2. Technology that has not ever been tried or at least demonstrated, although interesting, will not be qualified to be tested within the 6 month time period required. You would be allowed to integrate components that have not been tried together but were all demonstrated individually.


Solution Requirements

Any solution should be compliant with the following requirements: 

  1. Avoid the execution of inspections by workers at heights;
  2. Eliminate the use of scaffoldings;
  3. Carry out a high resolution visual inspection covering entire internal surface of all the complete Chimney elevation. Note: the following conditions can occur:
    1. exhaust gas and dust can flow through the liner;
    2. falling of materials can occur inside the chimney (bricks, deposits or antacid layers);
    3. the interior area of the chimney is generally dark, good lighting should be required;
    4. there could be turbulence inside the Chimney;
    5. there could be some measurement probes or other equipment inside the chimney at various positions.
  4. Live images visualization by remote console/ground station
  5. The inspection system must be equipped with an adequate light source in order to guarantee good quality of images.
  6. Have the ability to acquire images without oscillations in order to guarantee still pictures.
  7. Images must be collected and tagged by position (altitude and angle) in order to allow the reconstruction a single large format image that is representative of each section. In particular, it is asked to create 360 ° panoramic images (internal open section) as a final result for each single section for the total length of the chimney.
  8. Any solution must be operated from outside the chimney
  9. The solution must be CE certified to be used as a working tool at plants in Europe.
  10. The proposed system should have no third party patent preventing the use for commercial and industrial application.

The following would be “nice to have” but are not required for an award:

  1. A 3D model reconstruction.
  2. A method for automatic anomalies detection.
  3. Automatic precompiled reports



The solution may combine existing components, commercially available components, and/or novel Solver solutions. Ideas leveraged from industry with similar needs are encouraged.

The submitted proposal should include the following:

  • Detailed description of equipment/process that can meet the above Solution Requirements.
  • Rationale as to why the Solver believes that the proposed equipment/process will work. This rationale should address each of the Solution Requirements described in the Detailed Description and should be supported with any relevant examples and data.
  • Demonstration of feasibility of the proposed solution. You can show data, pictures, videos or any method you choose. The more evidence you can provide that it will work, the better. You should convince the Seeker that a real test could be carried out in 6 months or less.
  • Details of steps (e.g. installation/setup, measurements, data transfer, etc.).
  • Estimated costs including specialized training required.
  • Potential suppliers of any equipment/materials required.
  • The status of the technology your interest in continuing to develop the solution after the Challenge. The Seeker may wish to partner with solution providers, if possible.

Challenge rules

This is a Theoretical Challenge which requires only a written proposal to be submitted. The Challenge award will be contingent upon theoretical evaluation of the proposal by the Seeker. If multiple proposals meet all the Technical Requirements, the Seeker reserves the right to award only the solution which they believe best meets their application. 


To receive an award, the Solvers will not have to transfer their exclusive IP rights to the Seeker. Instead, they will grant to the Seeker non-exclusive license to practice their solutions.


Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (Central European Time) on Nov. 26, 2018. 

Late submissions will not be considered.

What happens next?

After the Challenge deadline, the Seeker will complete the review process and make a decision with regards to the Winning Solution(s). All Solvers that submit a proposal will be notified on the status of their submissions.



InnoCentive collaborates with Enel to manage this challenge.

InnoCentive is the global innovation marketplace where creative minds solve some of the world's most important problems for cash awards up to $1 million. Commercial, governmental and humanitarian organizations engage with InnoCentive to solve problems that can impact humankind in areas ranging from the environment to medical advancements.



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CSA Theoretical (Non-Exclusive License) - Advanced Chimney inspections

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About the seeker Enel - Enel Produzione

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Example 1

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Example 3

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Example 2

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