LASST project receives $2.5 million from DOE to improve technology in power plants

A University of Maine research project focused on improving sensor technologies in coal-based power plants has received a $2.5 million grant from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) through the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy.

The UMaine project, “Technology Maturation of Wireless Harsh-Environment Sensors for Improved Condition-Based Monitoring,” led by Mauricio Pereira da Cunha, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Robert Lad, professor of physics, is one of nine projects funded by NETL as part of the Advanced Combustion Systems (ACS) Program.

The goal of the program is to develop new advanced sensor instrumentation that can provide improved condition based maintenance in existing coal power plants, thus serving to reliably reduce the costs of operation and maintenance, increase efficiency and safety, and significantly reduce the pollutant emissions, according to the DOE.

UMaine’s research, led by faculty, staff and students in the Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology (LASST), is based on wireless, battery-free surface acoustic wave sensor devices that allow measurements of temperature, as well as stress and strain, on equipment operating under harsh environments at very high temperatures (near to 1000 C/1800 F).

The technology aims to monitor temperature and equipment degradation at both the fire-side and steam-side of boilers and other critical components. The work carried out under this DOE funding will focus on technology transfer and development of new materials and packaging for wireless harsh-environment sensors applications in coal-fired power plants.

“The selection of this project as one of only nine funded nationally under the given Department of Energy program is a clear endorsement of the innovative research led by Dr. Pereira da Cunha and Dr. Lad in developing cost-effective technologies to enhance operations of existing coal power plants,” said Kody Varahramyan, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School.

Contact: Christel Peters,