This is the first in a series of profiles and updates from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) first Electricity Industry Technology and Practices Innovation Challenge (EITPIC).

EITPIC was designed to tap into American ingenuity for ideas on how to make the nation’s electric grid stronger and more resilient. Through the challenge, DOE sought ideas from industry, academia, and other innovators for technologies and solutions to address existing or emerging vulnerabilities and threats to the electric sector or mitigate interdependencies between the electricity sector and other sectors.

International Business and Technology Service Corporation (IBT) received $25,000 for its proposal to use small, low-cost wafer sensors, based on the technology currently being used in applications such as data storage, to measure electric current. The device is small enough to be added to existing grid components such as phasor measurement units (PMUs) or micro-PMUs.

"Energy infrastructure is the foundation of all advanced technologies and crucial for national security," said Dr. Kaizhong Gao, general manager and chief scientist, IBT. “This technology was developed in close collaboration with Professor Sy-Hwang Liou’s team at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, with much of the foundational work previously sponsored by DOE. Our goal is to further mature the technology and implement it to improve energy efficiency, grid stability, reliability and resiliency.”

If successful, this sensing technology will provide critical information about grid facilities and enable a new level of situational awareness and greater resilience against cybersecurity threats. The sensors themselves will be designed to endure a large range of temperatures for performance in harsh environments, long life, and high reliability. The devices will also allow remote sensing from a few meters away and will not contact or interfere with grid operations, providing a high level of safety with continuous monitoring even in emergency situations, further improving safety during emergency response and repair.

IBT’s team shared that the EITPIC award helps continue the development of the technology and establish more collaboration and partnership opportunities. Recently, they demonstrated that the technology can be used for accurate DC current detection. And the award has helped the team promote its technology as a potential solution to improve overall grid safety and resiliency. Next, the team will continue demonstrations for both electric grid and renewable energy applications, including developing an algorithm to aid implementation.

Learn more about IBT’s proposal and all of the 2019 EITPIC winners here.