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Engineering project aims at improving disaster response networks

Sayfe Connection One
December 05, 2013

An advanced smart-grid disaster-response network will be developed by engineers at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Their goal is to design and test new utility-grid architecture that will enable telecommunications technology to be integrated into such systems to make them more reliable.

The project, funded by a recently awarded two-year $400,000 NSF grant, will bring together researchers the ASU-based Connection One center, the Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies Engineering Research Center based at ASU and the Center for Integrated Access Networks at UA.

Connection One, an NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, is at the forefront in development of the next generations of antennas, low-power computer chips, advanced transistor models and multiple-function circuitry. The center is directed by Sayfe Kiaei, a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Kiaei will oversee the project along with Jennifer Kitchen, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at ASU, and Nasser Peygambarian, director of the Center for Integrated Access Networks.

The UA center develops optoelectronic technologies that can be cost-effectively integrated with existing and future telecommunications and data-communication networks.

The Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies Engineering Research Center, established by the NSF and the U.S. Department of Energy, focuses on solving challenges to producing electricity from solar power in more technologically efficient and economically viable ways.

A smart grid is a technologically advanced electrical grid integrated with communications technologies. The integration enables the system to quickly gather information to guide its operations and improve the efficiency and reliability of electricity production and distribution.

During disaster situations, high demand on energy grids combined with infrastructure damage often results in power outages over large areas that can threaten public safety.

ASU and UA engineers will explore ways to integrate alternative energy sources, such as solar, into power utility grids to serve as a backup for conventional energy sources during widespread emergencies.

They’ll seek to achieve this by creating an underlying reconfigurable optical network, using “smart” wireless sensors on solar-energy panels to form the backbone of the disaster response network, Kiaei explains.

Researchers will develop a smart-grid prototype equipped with multiple solar-energy panels, which can be used to gather data, as well as provide backup power.

The project will also focus on employing new technologies to improve emergency preparedness, using alternative energy sources to provide more reliable backup power for hospitals and the data services that are critical during public disasters.

Written by Mayank Prasad and Joe Kullman