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Rebuilding Puerto Rico’s Power Grid: The Inside Story

Electricity may be fully restored this May—but the hard work of hurricane-proofing the grid remains

20 min read
Obed Santos, manager of the AES Illumina solar farm in Guayama.
A transmission tower felled by Hurricane Maria.
Photo: Erika P. Rodriguez

As Hurricane Maria churned menacingly toward Puerto Rico on 19 September, Gary Soto was hunkering down on the outskirts of San Juan. Soto, the operations manager of Puerto Rico’s state-run utility, faced a daunting task: to keep the grid running and minimize damage from the storm.

In a windowless, wood-paneled control center at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), Soto and a dozen other engineers and supervisors worked at U-shaped desks littered with paper coffee cups, staring at computer monitors that displayed real-time conditions on the grid. One after another, transmission lines were failing, and the team hastily debated their course of action. In this fragile state, the network wouldn’t be able to absorb an oversupply of power, excess voltages, or swings in frequency. They could inject test currents into the downed lines, to see which ones could be restored, or else reduce the level of electricity being put on the grid, to protect the remaining transmission system. Hour after hour, the team’s chatter filled the room with rising urgency.

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For Better AR Cameras, Swap Plastic Lenses for Silicon Chips

Metalenz adds the power of polarization to its innovative PolarEyes chips

5 min read
Silicon Nanostructures

Metalenz uses standard semiconductor manufacturing processes to build metasurfaces comprising nanostructures that control light, with one chip replacing multiple traditional camera lenses.

Metalenz

This week, startup Metalenz announced that it has created a silicon chip that, paired with an image sensor, can distinguish objects by the way they polarize light. The company says its “PolarEyes” will be able to make facial authentication less vulnerable to spoofing, improve 3D imaging for augmented and virtual reality, aid in telehealth by distinguishing different types of skin cells, and enhance driving safety by spotting black ice and other hard-to-see road hazards.

The company, founded in 2017 and exiting stealth a year ago, previously announced that it was commercializing waveguides composed of silicon nanostructures as an alternative to traditional optics for use in mobile devices.

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How Quantum Computers Can Make Batteries Better

Hyundai partners with IonQ to optimize lithium-air batteries

3 min read
A tan car with a Hyundai logo. Overlayed is a rendering of lithium-air batteries with a call-out showing a rendering of a molecular compound
Hyundai

Hyundai is now partnering with startup IonQ to see how quantum computers can design advanced batteries for electric vehicles, with the aim of creating the largest battery chemistry model yet to be run on a quantum computer, the companies announced yesterday.

A quantum computer with high enough complexity—for instance, enough components known as quantum bits or "qubits"—could theoretically achieve a quantum advantage where it can find the answers to problems no classical computer could ever solve. In theory, a quantum computer with 300 qubits fully devoted to computing could perform more calculations in an instant than there are atoms in the visible universe.

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Electric utility infrastructure habitually falls prey to overgrown Right-of-Way, high winds, and harsh weather. Impactful events causing outages are increasing in frequency, and need to be endured without major disruptions in electric service. This webinar will discuss the application of covered aerial conductor to "harden" the electric utility grid so that unpredictable events don't result in unsustainable outages.

Speaker:

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