Innovation That Improves Safety, Efficiency Of Energy Plants Nets R&D Award For NETL, WVU, Schneider Electric Researchers

A new, innovative software product developed by a team of experts from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), West Virginia University (WVU), and Schneider Electric has been recognized with a coveted R&D 100 Award. The virtual reality–based software provides energy industry decision-makers with an unprecedented high-tech look inside the operation of power plants, helping to lower costs and increase safety and efficiency.

The R&D 100 awards, given annually by R&D Magazine, have become known as the “Oscars of Invention” and celebrate the top technology products of the year. Past winners have included sophisticated testing equipment, innovative new materials, chemistry breakthroughs, biomedical products and new consumer items. The awards span industry-, academia-, and government-sponsored research.

NETL’s Stephen E. Zitney explained that the R&D team created the three-dimensional, immersive, virtual reality software technology, known as EYESIM, to give engineers and operators of energy plants a clearer vision of conditions inside plant equipment while in operation so that greater, more-informed efficiency and safety decisions can be made faster and more effectively, saving time and money.

“EYESIM recreates the look and feel and sounds of an actual operating plant,” he said. “By enabling hands-on interaction with process equipment, EYESIM enables users to master and optimize plant operations, control and maintenance as well as safety procedures for process malfunctions and abnormal situations.”

EYESIM combines a high-performance, immersive, three-dimensional virtual reality engine with a high-fidelity, real-time dynamic simulator to create a realistic and operable virtual plant walkthrough environment.

“EYESIM delivers easy-to-use, immersive, and highly interactive virtual plant environments,” Zitney said. “It is an innovation that can help the fossil and renewable energy industries improve the safe, efficient and reliable operation of highly integrated plants that cost tens of millions of dollars annually to operate and maintain.”

Users of the new product include plant control room, field and maintenance operators, as well as engineers and managers from electric utilities, fossil energy producers, renewable energy companies, engineering and construction firms, and equipment vendors.

The R&D 100 Award recognizes that EYESIM is helping the energy industry reduce costs for operations and maintenance, increase environmental performance and obtain better overall response to plant upsets, malfunctions, rare abnormal situations and safety-critical events.

EYESIM joins a long list of impressive technologies that have received R&D 100 Awards and gone on to become household names. Past products bearing this distinction include the flashcube (1965), the automated teller machine (1973), the halogen lamp (1974), the fax machine (1975), the liquid crystal display (1980), the Kodak Photo CD (1991), the Nicoderm anti-smoking patch (1992), Taxol anticancer drug (1993), lab on a chip (1996), and HDTV (1998).

This is the 27th R&D 100 Award for NETL. Nearly 50 technologies developed by NETL researchers or with NETL support have earned R&D 100 Awards since 1992.


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