CSE Researchers Win at Texas Instruments Innovation Challenge
Their Powerblade project is the smallest, lowest cost, and lowest power AC plug-load meter that measures real, reactive and apparent power, and reports this data over Bluetooth.
CSE graduate student researchers Sam DeBruin and Branden Ghena, together with their advisor Prof. Prabal Dutta and postdoctoral researcher Ye-Sheng Kuo received the “Best Environmental Impact” award and placed in the top ten at the Texas Instruments Innovation Design Challenge for their PowerBlade project.
PowerBlade is the smallest, lowest cost, and lowest power AC plug-load meter that measures real, reactive and apparent power, and reports this data, along with cumulative energy consumption, over an industry-standard Bluetooth Low Energy radio.
It is a single PCB that sandwiches in between a typical AC plug and a wall outlet. There are slots on the PCB face through which the plug’s AC prongs slide before plugging into the outlet, and flexible tabs inside the slots make contact with the prongs. This allows PowerBlade to both acquire current draw for its operation and monitor the power supplied to the AC load. PowerBlade provides data wirelessly and in real-time, and multiple Powerblades can monitor a large installation.
Due to the direct relationship between power supply size and output current, miniaturization requires also reducing the power consumed in the device itself. Because PowerBlade’s size is reduced to an extreme in order to fit between the plug and the wall, power for its operation was reduced to a budget of less than 1mA.
This new design point enables affordable large-scale studies of plugload energy usage – an area of growing national importance.