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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Engineering recently got some good news, as R&D Magazine named two research groups to its list of finalists for the R&D 100. (View official press release.)

The joint Y-12-UT Lithium indium diselenide thermal neutron imager project (LISe)—which includes nuclear engineering's Eric Lukosi—and the joint ORNL-UT Universal Grid Monitoring and Analyzing System (UGMAS)—which includes Governor's Chair Yilu Liu, Yong Liu and Lingwei Zhan, of electrical engineering and computer science—were selected by a panel of judges and editors for inclusion.

"We're very proud to have had two research teams involving our College of Engineering be nominated for this prestigious honor," said Wayne Davis, dean of the college. "This highlights not only the hard work that they are doing, but also some of the good things we have going on here at UT.

For the UGMAS team, the innovation that garnered their inclusion revolves around the ability to monitor the expansive electrical grid in real time. Along with ORNL's Marcus Young, Jose Gracia and Tom King, the team developed a wide-reaching device that is practical, easy to implement, and cost effective, as well as a large number of analytic functions to process real-time and off-line data, allowing operators to better interpret the status of power grid operation, take proactive measures to prevent blackouts, and facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources.

"It's a multi-functional, cost-effective, wide-area situational awareness system," said Yong Liu. "It uses time-synchronized sensors to capture dynamic grid behaviors and monitor customer-end power quality."

Advanced measurement techniques extend the sensor accuracy to orders of magnitude higher than the industry standards, while the use of both GPS and a chip-scale atomic clock as timing sources allows for unprecedented reliability. Critically, the sensors operate on common 120-V power outlets and thus can be easily installed without extensive installation procedures, allowing for a wide deployment of UGMAS to achieve a full view of a national-level power grid.

For the LISe team, the goal was to develop an imaging device that can render high-contrast, high-resolution thermal neutron images in a compact, flexible, and low cost package. Along with Y-12's Ashley Stowe, Brenden Wiggins, Daniel Hamm, and Elan Herrera, and Arnold Burger of Fisk University, the team utilized recently developed lithium indium diselenide semiconducting neutron detection crystals. Those crystals can either serve for light collection (scintillation) or to measure current (semiconduction), and can be used as a single item or in an array.

The team utilized them by developing a technique where changes in a neutron beam as at meets the crystals used to create an image, allowing researchers to study anything from polymers to fuel cells. Not only that, but Lukosi and the team pointed out that the data could also be used to reconstruct a 3D rendering of the object being studied.

 "This system will allow for researchers to study things in very high resolution, while at the same time getting feedback and data faster," said Lukosi. "Couple that with the longevity of the crystals and the design of the system and it offers many advantages to scientists."

 The winners will be announced at the 2015 R&D Awards in Las Vegas in November.