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Engineers ­se Brain Cells to Power Smart Grid


G. Kumar Venayagamoorthy, director of the Real-Time Power and Intelligent Systems Laboratory at Clemson University.

G. Kumar Venayagamoorthy, director of the Real-Time Power and Intelligent Systems Laboratory at Clemson University, leads a team of researchers using living brain cells to solve complex problems in a real-time computer-simulated power grid.

Credit: Clemson University

Ganesh Kumar Venayagamoorthy, director of Clemson University's Real-Time Power and Intelligent Systems Laboratory, is leading a team of engineers and neuroscientists using neurons cultured in a dish to control simulated power grids in the hope that the work will inform new methods for U.S. power grid management.

"In order to get the most out of the different types of renewable energy sources, we need an intelligent grid that can perform real-time dispatch and manage optimally available energy storage systems," Venayagamoorthy says. He notes that a brain-like control system is vital for such a grid, as it gives it the ability to monitor, predict, plan, learn, and make decisions.

The dish-grown neuronal network is connected to a computer via an electrode grid, enabling two-way communication between the organic and the electronic elements. The network is trained to identify and respond to voltage and speed signals from the power grid simulation.

So far, the researchers have successfully trained the network to respond to complex data, incorporating their findings into bio-inspired artificial neural networks that are currently being used to control synchronous generators linked to a power system. The team says their research could lead to smarter control of the future power grid.

From National Science Foundation
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