Lab tackles electric blackouts

October 10, 2013 by Lionel Pousaz
Credit: Creative Commons / Rookie Joe

Switzerland and Cameroon are establishing a joint laboratory in Yaoundé. EPFL (Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) and ENSPY (Ecole nationale supérieure polytechnique de Yaoundé) will work together to develop technologies for stabilizing and improving electricity grids.

Electricity networks in sub-Saharan Africa are unreliable – a critical problem for hospitals, because medical equipment is very sensitive to sudden variations in current. And the increasing number of energy sources – solar panels, generators – makes the issue of transmitting power even more complicated. ENSPY and EPFL are tackling the problem. On October 8, the two polytechnics are opening a joint laboratory in order to develop solutions. Ten people, a majority of them Cameroonian, will work with academic and industrial partners. The is part of the RESCIF program, which brings together North-South French-speaking universities.

"We're tackling the problem of where the stakes are really high, in hospitals," explains Bertrand Klaiber, who is heading up the project, which is part of the EssentialTech program coordinated by EPFL's Center for Cooperation and Development. "But in reality, these developments should end up being equally relevant to other sectors and even for developed countries. With the increase in renewables, we are also experiencing a decentralization of energy as electricity flows from multiple smaller sources. Whether for Cameroon or Switzerland, smart grids must prevail if we want to ensure electricity in the future."

The two institutions are planning to intensify exchange programs for students, PhD students and professors. This summer, a Cameroonian student came to Lausanne to work on electric grid simulations. The project also aims to strengthen collaboration with Cameroonian businesses and stimulate the creation of start-ups in Yaoundé – the researchers will benefit from a partnership with the University of Lausanne's business school.

The joint ENSPY/EPFL laboratory has a surface area of nearly 180 square meters It's main mission is to develop smart microgrids that can be deployed in hospitals in Cameroon. Yaondé engineers, in collaboration with their Lausanne-based colleagues, will also conduct a measurement study to better understand and evaluate problems with the local grid. As part of this, EssentialTech is pursuing with its Swiss and African partners a project to develop an all-terrain x-ray device that can stand up to even the most extreme climatic or electrical conditions.

Explore further: Stained glass solar windows for the Swiss Tech Convention Center

Related Stories

All-terrain technology for developing countries

February 8, 2013

EPFL is launching "EssentialTech," a unique program in which engineers will in particular produce medical devices custom-designed for the difficult conditions encountered in developing countries.

Power to the people, by the people

June 12, 2013

European researchers are investigating 'smarter' solutions to meet growing demand for electricity and fundamental changes in the way power is produced and consumed.

Smart energy to power refugee camps

August 21, 2013

Rolling out renewable and smart energy solutions in refugee camps could dramatically improve the well being of millions of refugees world-wide. Working in collaboration with the UNHCR, an EPFL Master's student is investigating ...

Energy to power tomorrow's electric vehicles

September 9, 2013

Sales of full electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have been rising steadily in many parts of the world, including Europe. These are motor vehicles, including personal cars, which can be recharged from an external ...

Recommended for you

Magnetic fields provide a new way to communicate wirelessly

September 1, 2015

Electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego demonstrated a new wireless communication technique that works by sending magnetic signals through the human body. The new technology could offer a lower power ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.