Photonic sensors for future power grid applications

Synaptec Ltd
Academic Supervisor: 
Dr Pawel Niewczas

The electricity transmission and distribution networks are undergoing a significant level of transformation because of the massive deployment of renewable energy sources, disrupting the conventional ways the networks are protected, controlled and maintained. These changes will be further compounded by the increased penetration of electric transportation, placing unprecedented burdens on the sections of future electrical grid. While grid reinforcement will be essential to cope with these new demands, a “smarter” way of dealing with the problem will be to combine grid reinforcement with methods to increase network visibility that can be used to introduce more advanced power system control and protection mechanisms. Synaptec has developed novel fibre-optic sensors and sensor interrogation methods that are capable of measuring a range of electrical and other physical parameters on the power network deployed over a wide geographical area. These distributed measurements can be used to assess exact state of the network so that novel protection and control functions can be successfully implemented, saving network operators a lot of expenditure associated with building new infrastructure.


This engineering doctorate project aims to develop new photonic sensors and interrogation platforms based on the generic technologies owned by Synaptec. In the area of sensor development, the project will focus on contactless voltage and current sensors based on hybrid, fibre Bragg grating (FBG)/piezoelectric transducers that can be integrated with power cables, splices or connectors. Furthermore, the project will propose and demonstrate FBG based sensors capable of measuring dc voltage and current and will propose and investigate methods to ensure that the sensors are capable of meeting stringent metrological standards demanded by the power industry. In the area of photonic sensor interrogation, the project will focus on the development of reliable techniques for high-performance interrogation of a large number of FBG based sensors over extended distances, including, among other things, the investigation of interferometric interrogation platforms integrated onto a photonic chip, aspects of redundancy within the photonic networks, and photonic signal amplification for long-reach applications. The general goal will be to push the boundaries of the photonic sensor and sensor interrogation technologies by addressing a range of engineering problems associated with performance and reliability in order to ensure wide industry acceptance of these novel systems. The project will involve both theoretical and experimental elements of research which will touch on the mixture of photonics, photonic system integration, sensor design and manufacture, electronics, and electrical power engineering. The project will be carried out in close collaboration with Strathclyde and Synaptec’s R&D teams and will offer an outstanding opportunity for the EngD student to engage with the major power system operators and equipment manufacturers.