PUF AV: A Day at EPRI's Knoxville Labs


Advanced Virtual Reality, Robotics, Lighting, Indoor Farming, Cybersecurity

PUF 2.0 - November 15, 2017

Public Utilities Fortnightly visited EPRI's Knoxville labs on September 26. As cool as the Charlotte labs. We met scientists doing applied research with the most advanced virtual reality, robotics, and lighting. Plus we saw world-class work on indoor farming and on combating cyber-attacks.

Combatting cyber-attacks

What we have here is an overview of some of the cyber-attacks that are occurring in quasi-real-time throughout the world at any moment. This is a public-facing website that actually shows various cyber-attacks going on.

What should be noted is this only shows attacks that are using the Norse equipment. This is a small subset of the actual attacks. This is just an overview, or a small subset, of what we see at any time.

What EPRI's group does is, they work with these kinds of technologies to help utilities better defend themselves against cyber-attack, and resolve cyber-security issues before they impact generation, transmission and end-use.


Power supply units

This is a 230-test bench for the PSUs, in which we test them and we get the information to get the efficiency level of bronze to titanium. This is for the 230 units.


All kinds of lighting

An integrating sphere, which allows us to have a high-accuracy, high-resolution measurement of any light source we place in the sphere from less than one lumen (which is one candle power) to about a hundred and seventy thousand candlepower. About anything we can fit in here, we can measure.

AC or DC, we have utility grade power, and power control systems allow us to interject harmonics. Again, high-quality power, but we can also interject harmonics and other things to see how the light's going to respond. We can dim the light, measuring its changes in efficacy, which is lumens per watt and efficiency, which is consumption.

We want to understand both of those, where the utility can better understand how lighting can work in its various programs, be it electrification, energy efficiency, demand response, or energy customer satisfaction.

A product we have in here at the moment is a color-changeable product that does spectrums of light. You can see as I make changes, the light itself changes colors.

This product is also capable of doing about sixteen million colors. It can do things in green and reds, blues and oranges. We see more and more of these kinds of lights coming in to the market.

And what we want to understand is as we change the color temperature or the color output itself, how does the light change in operation? And how does it change in terms of consumption and efficacy?


Agricultural lighting

What we're looking at here is agricultural lighting. What's interesting to note is, plants don't necessarily need the full spectrum of visible light. They only use certain spectrum. This fixture, and fixtures like it, are designed to deliver only the nanometers of light that are the plants desire.

Go ahead and flip the other switch.

We can create different conditions. More red. More blue. Less blue. Less red. Where we can create the different days or seasons. This is what allows indoor lighting, agricultural lighting, to offer high-yield and a lot quicker crop times.


Simulating outdoor and indoor conditions

We have our thermal chambers. We're able to create indoor and outdoor conditions for HVAC systems and other systems we want to test. We can create an outdoor condition from a few degrees minus to roughly 110 F.

Same way inside. We can create any indoor conditions you want in terms of temperature and humidity. And understand the impacts of the operation.

This allows us to test things like variable-speed refrigeration systems to see how their energy uses varies at different load levels. It compares a variable-speed compressor with how different is it when it's at full capacity versus twenty to thirty percent.


Data center efficiency

What everybody does in our Data Center Research Lab is look at various ways we can help utilities, and their end users who own data centers, improve the efficiency and operation of small to medium-size data centers.

Looking at novel cooling and operational things like power supplies. We've looked at DC in data centers. We've looked at immersion cooling, where you take the server and actually immerse it in a liquid.

There's a lot of different opportunities around improving the operation and efficiency of small to medium-size data centers in the U.S.


Virtual reality collaboration

It’s a virtual reality collaborative environment. And in that environment, we have a substation. The idea is that two or more people can meet in this virtual substation from anywhere in the world, and look over features, white-board solutions for problems, rearrange things, perform tasks such as changing settings. And maybe doing some training exercises like walking through procedures.


Trying virtual reality

EPRI scientist: Can you see? 

PUF Editor: Whoa. 

EPRI scientist: Can you see the substation? 

PUF Editor: Yeah.

EPRI scientist: All right. Can you see the red ball? 

PUF Editor: Not yet. 

EPRI scientist: Try looking to your... 

PUF Editor: Oh, yeah.

EPRI scientist: Okay. 

PUF Editor: There it is. 

EPRI scientist: Can you reach it without moving? 

PUF editor: Oh, well, no, I can't.

EPRI scientist: You can actually physically walk toward it, or you can teleport.

PUF editor: It's kind of ... oh, yeah. 

EPRI scientist: The teleport is the middle of the disc, so if you point when you press the middle of the disc... 

PUF editor: Yeah.

EPRI scientist: And point it at the ground near the red ball. You'll jump to that location. You'll see it change to a blue disc, and you'll just jump there. So, let go. Did you jump? 

PUF editor: Oh, I should jump? 

EPRI scientist: No, no, no. 

PUF editor: No?

EPRI scientist: The disc points you where you want to go. 

PUF editor: Oh, okay. 

EPRI scientist: So, press the middle of it. Do you see? There's a beam of light.

PUF editor: Yeah, it's like a beam.

EPRI scientist: And then, it turns blue.

PUF editor: I'm inside. 

EPRI scientist: You're inside it? 

PUF editor: Oh, there it is.

EPRI scientist: The red ball? 

PUF editor: Should I pick it up? 

EPRI scientist: Can you touch it? 

PUF editor: Yeah.

EPRI scientist: As soon as you feel the vibration, squeeze either one of the triggers. 

PUF editor: I got it. 

EPRI scientist: Now, move it. 

PUF editor: What should I do with it?

EPRI scientist: Anything you want.

PUF editor: Okay. 

EPRI scientist: I don't think you can actually throw it, can you? Did it throw?

PUF editor: Yeah. Yeah. I pushed it over there. How's that?