New sensors can collect and transmit data to pinpoint potential problems

By Nicole DiGiose,
content editor

Hey, who turned out the
lights?

Unfortunately, the breakdown
of overhead powerlines and underground cables is often discovered after the power’s
gone out. With this all-too-common issue in mind, researchers
at the University of Akron
decided
to collaborate with a field-proven detection technology from electronics
provider for the utilities industry, Exacter, that can predict, detect, and
prevent problems with electrical equipment. What’s more, the company also
specializes in miniaturizing equipment for applications on electrical
distribution and transmission lines. 

The new sensors will
collect and transmit data to pinpoint potential problems. 
Image source: Pixabay.

To better predict outages, professors Dr. Jose Alexis De Abreu-Garcia
and Dr. Yilmaz Sozer from the university are working with Exacter to create cell
phone-sized smart sensors that can detect and measure radio frequency signals
emitted from faulty components.

Currently, electrical equipment must be inspected on-site by
powerline technicians. With the new sensors, data can be collected and
transmitted, allowing electric utilities to continuously monitor the health of
the grid and pinpoint the problematic locations that could result in power
failures, including fires and explosions.

“The sensors being developed
by our team will be measuring various factors that can adversely impact
electrical transmission and cause power outages,” said
De Abreu-Garcia
. “Many of these measurements are not being monitored or
collected today.”

So far the project has received over $3 million in funding from
the Ohio
Development Service Agency’s Innovation Platform Program
. It’s also benefitted
from the input of more than 25 major electrical utilities leaders from around
the country, according to De Abreu-Garcia.

The sensors
are among the latest contributions to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT),
a network of industrial structures equipped with electronic devices to
facilitate communication and data exchange.

“Creating these never-before developed IIoT
sensors was an ambitious undertaking, but our team of researchers has been up
to the task,” said
Sozer
. “It has been a very good experience having our students go into
the field and collaborate with the utilities on the testing and validation of
these unique sensors and technology.”

According to the university, the professors plan to have a
fully-commercialized product by the end of this year, with Exacter releasing it
to the utility industry in the first quarter of 2019.