Inside the Lab That Pushes Supergrid Circuit Breakers to the Limit

Tomorrow’s megavolt transmission lines need breakers that can withstand titanic forces

10 min read
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photo of KEMA Laboratories

The Guardian: KEMA Laboratories tests a circuit breaker under extreme conditions to ensure it won't fail when it really matters.

Photo: KEMA Laboratories

Imagine a blazingly hot day in central China, when all the air conditioners in every megacity are running at full blast. Through the remote mountains of Shanxi province, the major transmission lines that carry ultrahigh-voltage electricity to the cities are operating at close to maximum capacity. Heated by the sunshine and the flowing current, the transmission lines sag dangerously close to the treetops. Suddenly the current jumps from line to tree branch, finding the path of least resistance and pouring through the tree into the ground. There's a bright flash as the current ionizes the air.

During this short circuit, the abruptly unleashed current reaches 10 to 20 times its normal level within a blink of an eye. Now the power grid's protection system must act fast. Within milliseconds, protection relays must recognize the fault and command the circuit breakers at both ends of the line to switch off the current, isolating the faulted line. The stakes are high: A sustained short-circuit current can trigger a chain reaction of failures throughout the grid and cause widespread blackouts, severely damaging expensive equipment in the process. The 2003 blackout in northeast North America was set off by a tree's contact with transmission lines in Ohio, which caused a cascade of failures that shut down more than 260 power plants, stopped the flow of 60,000 megawatts throughout the northeast grid, and darkened New York City.

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Video Friday: Turkey Sandwich

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read
A teleoperated humanoid robot torso stands in a kitchen assembling a turkey sandwich from ingredients on a tray

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Enjoy today's videos!

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New AI Speeds Computer Graphics by Up to 5x

Neural rendering harnesses machine learning to paint pixels

5 min read
Four examples of Nvidia's Instant NeRF 2D-to-3D machine learning model placed side-by-side.

Nvidia Instant NeRF uses neural rendering to generate 3D visuals from 2D images.

NVIDIA

On 20 September, Nvidia’s Vice President of Applied Deep Learning, Bryan Cantanzaro, went to Twitter with a bold claim: In certain GPU-heavy games, like the classic first-person platformer Portal, seven out of eight pixels on the screen are generated by a new machine-learning algorithm. That’s enough, he said, to accelerate rendering by up to 5x.

This impressive feat is currently limited to a few dozen 3D games, but it’s a hint at the gains neural rendering will soon deliver. The technique will unlock new potential in everyday consumer electronics.

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Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Modeling and simulation in Simulink and Simscape

1 min read
Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Design and simulate a fuel cell system for electric mobility. See by example how Simulink® and Simscape™ support multidomain physical modeling and simulation of fuel cell systems including thermal, gas, and liquid systems. Learn how to select levels of modeling fidelities to meet your needs at different development stages.