Texas A&M System ramps up fiber optic electrical current sensor with green technology

By: kbtxnews Email
By: kbtxnews Email

The Texas A&M University System has executed a license agreement with Areva, an international electric utility supplier based in France, for production of a new environmentally friendly electric utility current sensor. The sensor, used for transmission and distribution, is based on fiber optics and uses a Sagnac interferometer to acquire phase shift data for measurement. It completely eliminates the need for environmentally dangerous oil-filled equipment and doesn’t rely on toxic SF6 gas.

“Electric utilities use the sensor in substations to measure current and voltage of the power lines,” said Page Heller, senior licensing manager for the A&M System’s Office of Technology Commercialization. “Our device is a green, environmentally safe solution that also has other technological advantages over the older oil-filled equipment. It is lightweight, can be easily installed and provides a path into the future all digital electric utility substations.”

The inventor of the technology, Jim Blake, worked as an associate professor of electrical engineering at Texas A&M University for eight years before taking a position with NxtPhase. He currently serves as vice president for engineering.

In October 1999, the A&M System entered into its first equity license agreement with NxtPhase Corporation, a joint venture with Honeywell, the A&M System and a small engineering firm in Canada. The A&M System took an equity stake in exchange for rights to a set of patents. The license also contains a royalty position.

The agreement resulted from the completion of a merger and acquisition deal between Areva and NxtPhase T&D, an A&M System startup company located in Vancouver. The merger has the potential to bring several million dollars into the system for reinvestment into research. NxtPhase raised approximately $50 million in venture capital for the sensor, and the A&M System has received more than $1.2 million from the venture to date.

About the A&M System
The A&M System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $3.04 billion. Through a statewide network of nine universities, seven state agencies and a comprehensive health science center, the A&M System educates more than 109,000 students and makes more than 15 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. Externally funded research brings in almost $676 million every year and helps drive the state’s economy.

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