ABB’s top innovations for 2013

A look at five of our recent breakthroughs and achievements

Last April, the MIT Technology Review named ABB in its list of top 50 global innovators  in 2013. Surprised? You may not have heard of ABB and what we do (hint: we do a lot of things!), as much of our of technology, while ever-present, tends to go unnoticed in everyday life.

The tech media tends to focus on the near constant innovation of consumer products, so it’s perhaps easy to overlook recent innovations that have come about in our world of industrial engineering. Below is a selection of recent technologies, which have been researched and developed in our laboratories across the world.

Hybrid HVDC breaker

As renewable power integration and generation grows in relevance, power will need to be transmitted great distances from areas of generation, where the grid is traditionally weak, to centers of consumption E.G. transmitting electricity from the Three Gorges hydro power plant in central China to the Guangdong province 940 kilometers to the south. Direct current is much more efficient at transmitting power over long distances with minimal losses and high controllability.

The significance of the Hybrid HVDC breaker is the possibility to now create a grid for the future, one that effectively incorporates the integration of renewable energy to help meet the world’s energy challenges; a high voltage direct current grid, which balances supply and demand and ensures reliability.

The HVDC breaker was voted as one of the 10 breakthrough technologies in 2013 by the MIT Technology Review

Watchful algorithms

MACHsense is a condition monitoring service that uses portable or remote monitoring systems together with intelligent algorithms to assess the condition of motors, generators and other equipment connected to mechanical power transmission elements.

Human skill, robot strength

A current research project allows the operator to guide a robot from a distance and feel what it feels. When the operator moves a stylus, the robot will synchronously emulate the gestures of the operator and provide force feedback through the stylus. This technology combines the robot’s accuracy and strength with the user’s skill to provide safe and precise interactive operation for applications such as material handling, assembly and material removal.

You wear it well

Our software research team has been exploring several aspects of mobile and wearable computing. For instance, a  wearable safety suit was developed, which integrated various sensors and is operated via a mobile device.

Sensors sewn into the clothing are able to increase the safety of maintenance and service staff by collecting information  related to the environmental conditions such as gas levels or temperature as well as the health of the wearer.Via augmented reality applications on mobile phones, tablets or special glasses, the field technician can get background information to make his work more efficient and safer.

Light measures current

The fiber-optic current sensor measures direct current of up to 600 kA and was first introduced by ABB in 2005. First used in aluminum smelters, copper mills and chlorine plants the technology has now been further developed for use in high-voltage substations, where a prototype system has been successfully operating for about three years. For more information on how the sensor can reduce a substation’s footprint in conjunction with a disconnecting circuit breaker please see the video below…

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About the author

Andreas Moglestue

I'm Chief Editor of the ABB Review magazine.
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