I never thought about it before – but the U.S. power grid is the largest interconnected machine on earth, noted Igor Paprotny, post-doc researcher at the Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center (BSAC). The grid has 9,200 generating units, 1,000,000MW capacity and 300,000 miles of transmission lines. This aging behemoth would benefit from having sensors that report on system status and health. The urgency of need is evident given data Paprotny presented: there has been a 126% increase in non-disaster related blackouts affecting at least 50,000 customers (reported on CNN, 8/9/10). The estimated loss from the Northeast blackout in 2003 alone was $6B.
Researchers at BSAC have developed a self-powered wireless MEMS sensor. Their long-term goal is to use it for ubiquitous power systems sensing, especially as they further develop their sticky-tab meter, i.e., one literally sticks the MEMS sensor onto a location, making installation very inexpensive. Some of the applications include: modules that measure flow of power in the grid, underground cables that report on their condition, wireless electric meters, and equipment status ID chips. The group has already devised a project whereby the sticky tab modules are placed on top of circuit breakers in Cory Hall at UC-Berkeley.
The version 1.0 form factor of the MEMS sensor module is 3.5cm X 1.5cm. Version 4.0 (the sticky-tab) will be much smaller. Among the challenges the researchers are pursuing: AC scavenging/overcurrent protection, and determining whether or not the sensor degrades equipment performance. They also need to determine if the sensor will work for 40+ years. (Debra Vogler, Sr. Technical Editor)
May 31, 2011 08:01 PM
it WOULD benefit from having sensors that report on system status and health.
Jan 25, 2012 12:25 AM
You think this MEMS sensor gonna work for 40 years. I doubt. It will be the same things like the previous one. Blackouts...