A research graduate has developed a way to monitor electrical discharges on power lines, to prevent potentially catastrophic power outages.
Dr Sahan Fernando, from RMIT University's has invented a detection technique to monitor electrical discharges that can result in power outages, which have previously been blamed for catastrophic fires in Melbourne's outer-east.
Dr Fernando said that in the current period of rapid warming in Australia, this was timely and important research for the general public.
"A partial discharge is a micro-level spark occurring on power lines and, during my research, I discovered a distinct electromagnetic radiation 'signature' from the partial discharge detected," he said.
"Using a wide band horn antenna and an oscilloscope, I observed the electromagnetic interference as a radio frequency, and then used signal processing software to identify a usable spectrum from this, which I refer to as the 'signature'."
Dr Fernando proved that by using this "signature" the type and extent of the discharge could be measured accurately and reliably.
"I also discovered that the signal generated by the partial discharge can travel over quite a long distance, which has implications for identifying where and how many sensors should be positioned along the power line," he said.
Dr Fernando hopes that through the remote detection of electrical faults, emergency workers on the ground will be able to intervene immediately.
His research was funded through an Australian Research Council Discovery grant on Partial Discharge Detection.
Data from newly installed monitors could eventually also be used for broader investigations into partial discharge faults along Australia's power lines.
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