Virginia Tech Photonics Center gets $3.2 million to develop energy-related fiber-optics sensors

virginia_tech_sensors
Anbo Wang directs the Center for Photonics Technology at Virginia Tech, which has received DOE and EPRI funding to pursue three fiber-optic sensor projects.

 

Blacksburg, VA--The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) have awarded $3.2 million to the Center for Photonics Technology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) for three projects related to fiber-optic sensing. Started in 1997 by professor Anbo Wang, the Center conducts a wide range of research in fiber optics for sensing, communications, and biophotonics, especially for harsh environments.

The first DOE award goes toward the development of a first-of-a-kind, high temperature distributed sensing platform and on improvements to the operations of fossil energy power plants. Fiber-optic sensors will be developed for advanced, zero-emission power systems, as well as for existing power plants. This project will last 36 months, and the funding totals $1,195,770.

In the second DOE project, researchers at the Center will develop a sensing platform to monitor the varying space and time properties of a gasifier's refractory wall. In a gasifier, a carbon-based material such as coal or petroleum can be converted at a high temperature into a gas, including hydrogen, carbon monoxide, or a synthetic gas. The temperatures may exceed 1000°C. The sensors will be used to identify problem areas such as localized hot spots in the liner of the gasifier. Wang is working with Eastman Chemical Co. to develop a baseline requirement matrix for refractory health monitoring to guide the design and fabrication of the new sensor. Together, they will build a laboratory-scale double-layer refractory furnace to demonstrate the distribution of high temperatures between the two layers and prove the sensor's capability to accurately detect hot spots.

The EPRI is funding a four-year study to investigate the validity of two approaches to monitoring and detecting hydrogen and acetylene gases in power transformers. Transformer failures are often caused by dielectric breakdowns that can be triggered by a surge in various chemical gases such as acetylene and hydrogen dissolved in the transformer oil. Dissolved-gas detection is an important method to learn the health condition of a transformer. The detection is currently handled manually by a process called dissolved gas analysis (DGA), an expensive method involving oil sampling, shipping, and laboratory analysis. It often takes days for the measurement results to be obtained. Although DGA can be installed on site and access the transformer oil with a connection port, the cost is still high. Virginia Tech will develop a more economical method for on-line dissolved gas detection. The key is that this method does not require oil sampling and provides real-time data about transformer health.

For more info on the Center for Photonics Technology, see: http://photonics.ece.vt.edu/


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