Engineering method designed to help prevent catastrophic failures in electric grids, logistics systems

On Aug. 14, 2003, a series of faults caused by tree branches touching power lines in Ohio, which then were complicated by human errors, software issues, and equipment failures, led to one of the most widespread blackouts in North American history.

Now, Purdue University innovators have come up with a method to help stop such catastrophic failures involving systems with humans and equipment.

“Computers are providing more and more support, but humans are at the center of making decisions on how failures are repaired,” said Shimon Y. Nof, a Purdue professor of industrial engineering and director of Purdue’s PRISM Center. “Humans are prone to mistakes. When several mistakes coincide, such as they did in the 2003 blackout, cascading failures may occur and cause great damage.”

Nof said the system invented at Purdue determines how resources are allocated to repair failures. The system generates failure repair sequences based on information about failures – such as time, location, severity, causes and required repair resources – and available resources, and recommends failure repair sequences that meet system objectives.

“System sustainability requires effective and efficient repair of failures. This invention improves sustainability by optimally repairing failures with limited resources,” said Xin Chen, a former graduate student in Nof’s lab who helped create the technology.

This technology provides real-time failure diagnostics and failure repair sequences that minimize the impact and prevent cascading failures. Nof said the technology has applications for electrical power grids, logistics systems, and other systems that need to repair multiple failures.

This technology is part of the team’s work at Purdue’s PRISM Center, focused on production, robotics and integration software for manufacturing and management. The researchers have created other systems, including a set of patented algorithms that predict, identify, diagnose and prevent abnormalities in large and complex systems.

This image shows the Purdue technology applied to a power generation and distribution grid. (Image provided) Download image

The innovators are working with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to license this patented technology. The office recently moved into the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus.

The researchers are looking for partners to continue developing their technology. For more information on licensing and other opportunities, contact Dhananjay Sewak of OTC at [email protected] and mention track code 2013-NOF-66347.

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university’s academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. The office recently moved into the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus. In fiscal year 2019, the office reported 136 deals finalized with 231 technologies signed, 380 disclosures received and 141 issued U.S. patents. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In 2020, IPWatchdog Institute ranked Purdue third nationally in startup creation and in the top 20 for patents. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Contact [email protected] for more information.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 6 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.

Writer: Chris Adam, 765-588-3341, [email protected]

Sources: Shimon Nof, [email protected]

Xin Chen, [email protected]

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.