Palladium Alloy Nanosensors in Power Transformers

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Power transformers have service lives that exceed 25-50 years, but when they fail prematurely, the result is often a dangerous explosion.  Monitoring the condition of these transformers is critical to maintaining the nation’s energy infrastructure[1].  One of the most reliable ways to predict premature failure within a transformer is to monitor the levels of hydrogen gas in the insulating oil.  As the oil deteriorates, hydrogen gas levels increase.  Applied Nanotech Inc has created a palladium alloy nanoparticle sensor that is as small as a square millimeter.  This sensor can offer continual monitoring of  hydrogen in the oil at levels as small as 4 parts per million.  The sensors can monitor increases in hydrogen levels as well, allowing utilities to monitor the pace of oil deterioration[2].

The devices work by the expansion and contraction of the palladium allows within a dielectric substrate.  The palladium allows act like switches, turning on as they expand when in contact with hydrogen.  Because they only turn on when expanding, they consume no power under normal operation.  Prior to the advent of these devices, oil deterioration and hydrogen levels had to be monitored with expensive and time-consuming gas chromatography.  Current research has expanded upon these properties to create thin film-hydrogen sensors.  These new sensors could be vital to future transportation infrastructure once hydrogen is scalable as a store of energy.


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The purpose of this technology is for the identification and monitoring of the fluid health within utility transformers, resulting in increased reliability and reduced costs.

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The benefit of this product is that it allows for the real time monitoring of electrical transformers, saving costs and preventing environmental damage.

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While fixed small aspect nanoparticles and nanocoatings pose no immediate biological health risks, the free small aspect nanoparticles may pose biological health risks. During the manufacturing of the platinum nanoparticles, disposal of nanoparticle containers, and fabrication of the nanocoatings on the membrane anodes there is a potential for human, ecological, and environmental health risks. Platinum is a heavy metal from the platinum group, and platinum nanoparticles have been shown to be potentially toxic. Studies have shown that Platinum nanoparticles transfer to animal tissues and are recycling in organic synthesis—they can be passed through animal faeces and to offspring. Nanoparticles however have not been shown to be bio-accumulating. The fact that these particles are suspended in a fluid rather than embedded in a substrate raises the risk for their release into the environment, however, the presence of these nanoparticles in closed systems mitigates environmental exposure except in situations of system failure.

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