Wireless Nanotech Sensors Could Monitor Power Systems 24/7

11/27/2006


Researchers at the University at Buffalo in New York state are looking at how tiny, nanoscale sensors could make power systems far more resilient.

Engineers with UB's Energy Systems Institute, which claimed to be one of the nation's few academic research centers that studies the fundamentals of electric power, have for the past year been considering how nanoelectronics could dramatically shorten, or even eliminate, massive power outages, something the region is quite familiar with, as was the case during the recent October snowstorm that hit the area.

"Until now, we've had to do everything with wires and that makes it very expensive," said W. James Sarjeant, Ph.D., James Clerk Maxwell Chair Professor of Electrical Engineering at UB and director of the institute. "What we're proposing is to use wireless communications, by embedding tiny sensors at every point in the system. The nanosensors would then send in real-time a signal to a centralized computer using wireless communications. It would monitor the power coming to every home or business in the system at every instant in time."

Such an embedded, low-cost, self-powered system would provide integrated prognostic and diagnostic capabilities, detecting problems and in some cases prescribing solutions, thus greatly expediting the time it would take to prevent cascading effects.

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