[EAS] Storm-Sensing Transistors

Peter J. Kindlmann pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Nov 29 22:55:58 EST 2006

Dear Colleagues -

You may recall a recent mailing 
<http://jove.eng.yale.edu/pipermail/eas-info/2006/000699.html>, where 
I questioned the novelty of a radio-frequency (in the few MHz range) 
power coupling as a means of recharging laptop batteries. (Never mind 
reawakening the concerns about the effects of radio frequency fields 
on people.)

I now present for your further consideration, nowhere near April 1st, 
an item so wondrously strange that it makes me question the very idea 
of "engineering sense" as opposed to engineering in some alternative 
universe. Or, to quote a line from the Simpsons, "I used to be with 
it, but then they changed what it was, so now what I'm with isn't it 

Let me know if you figure out what is really being proposed. Sounds 
to me like a wireless distributed sensing scheme -- useful, but can 
hardly "eliminate" power outages. And, given the size of power line 
equipment, the proposed quest for nano-miniaturization seems strange.

Better read the short Buffalo Spectrum piece in its entirety, to get 
the "full flavor." I particularly enjoyed the "huge transistors 
currently in use that are at least four feet tall and wide."


(from INNOVATION, 22 November 2006)

       Blizzards, hurricanes and tornados typically topple power lines 
and leave residents without power, often for days. The development of 
wireless, storm-sensing transistors mean future power outages will 
not have to be nearly as costly or frustrating. Emerging nanotech 
sensors will soon be able to pinpoint the exact location of a power 
outage, according to researchers at the University of Buffalo's 
Energy Systems Institute. Typically, crews go street-by-street 
looking for the location of the multiple problems causing power 
outages, such as a downed line or damaged power box. Sending out 
crews for repair is costly in both time and money, and researchers 
believe the new sensors will be able to pinpoint the problem and 
isolate it much more quickly. UB professor James Sarjeant, chair of 
the Energy Systems Institute, says the sensors are extremely small, 
yet sensitive enough to permit wireless, real-time measurements of 
power systems. They will monitor the quality and condition of 
systems, alerting utility companies if they fail or are damaged. 
There are many possible applications for a technology able to detect 
natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes, keeping people 
across the county more aware of their surroundings. Researchers 
believe these tiny, intelligent, new transistors will be the future 
of electricity. (University of Buffalo Spectrum 20 Nov 2006)

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