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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk


Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

You Can't Be Creative With What You Don't Know Caroline Storm Westenhover

Awhile back I was walking past the door to the lab where I work and noticed that there was a meeting going on to which I had not been invited. I guess they assumed the sophomore-level undergrad did not have much to contribute. It’s not that they would be wrong, but still it’s nice to be invited.

As I walked into the room I noticed that I did not recognize one of the people, and he had a distinct accent. I went on to learn that he was Spanish, but is a professor at Aalborg University in Denmark, both of which might account for his accent. He was giving a presentation on Smart Grids, and since I am helping out with my professor’s Smart Grid research I figured I would stay.

I learned there are several interesting projects going on that showcase the viability of Smart Grids. I learned the one at the University of Chicago is among the best. I also learned that Texans and Asians just don’t understand Danish drinking jokes.

Now while all of this was interesting, what has stuck with me, besides paranoia about making culturally misplaced jokes, is some of the research they are doing in the Faroe Islands as part of the Nolsoy Energy Project. The Faroe Islands seem like an excellent place to try such a project. You have such a diverse load that it opens up possibilities.

What the professor highlighted was that instead of a huge battery bank, they had a small battery bank and large hot water tanks. Water has a high specific heat, so large tanks of it can store a sizable amount of energy, and heating elements are efficient. Since the average temperature at Nolsoy ranges from 43 - 56 °F, hot water is always in demand. Why waste energy by storing it in battery banks and then heating the water once it gets to a set point, when you can heat the water directly with the excess energy and adjust the hot/cold mixture?

There is much talk about needing better energy storage. Perhaps it is not only about improving the battery and super capacitors, which are important, but also about thinking of creative ways to intelligently allocate energy or store it by allowing larger tolerances on high load appliances.

This is one of the aspects I love about engineering. We become familiar with the laws that dictate the systems with which we work so that we can be creative with how we implement the laws of physics.

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My name is Caroline Storm Westenhover. I am a Senior Electrical Engineering student at the University of Texas at Arlington. I am the third of seven children. I enjoy collecting ideas and theories and most enjoy when they come together to present a bigger picture as a whole. Perhaps that is why I like physics and engineering.  My biggest dream is to become an astronaut.

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