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Brain cells power smart grid

NSF Award:

EFRI-COPN: Neuroscience and Neural Networks for Engineering the Future Intelligent Electric Power Grid  (Missouri University of Science and Technology)

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Living brain cells grown in a dish can control a simulated electric power grid. The research team that developed the technique believes that studying how neural networks integrate and respond to complex information will inspire new methods for managing the country's power supply and demand.

For their studies, the team, led by G. Kumar Venayagamoorthy, formerly of Missouri University of Science and Technology and now at Clemson University, grew neurons in a dish containing a grid of electrodes that can both stimulate and record activity. The electrodes connect to the neuronal network and transfer the information to a computer, allowing two-way communication between the living and the electronic components. The researchers then use mathematical equations to create a computer-simulated model of the living network's responses to various demands. In the future, this model could be implemented in the power grid for cost and energy savings.

Experts believe that developing a "smart" grid capable of monitoring and controlling the flow of electricity from power plants to individual appliances will significantly reduce energy consumption. Research like that of Venayagamoorthy's team has the potential to maximize smart grid efficiency by allowing it to adapt to changes in the environment, similar to the way the brain responds and adapts to new information.


  • a researcher stands in front of a power system simulator
Kumar Venayagamoorthy in front of a power-grid simulator.
Clemson University

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