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Virtually Engineering Power Plants

Date:
July 21, 2009
Source:
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
Summary:
Photovoltaic and wind energy plants, hydroelectric power stations and biogas plants supply energy without polluting the environment. However, they are complex to design and maintain. Virtual reality (VR) makes planning and operation easier.

Virtually engineering power plants.
Credit: Image courtesy of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Photovoltaic and wind energy plants, hydroelectric power stations and biogas plants supply energy without polluting the environment. However, they are complex to design and maintain. Virtual reality (VR) makes planning and operation easier.

The design engineer’s head is spinning. She has been analyzing data on her computer for hours, with no end in sight. Designing a hydroelectric power station, she would like to know what the pressures, temperatures and fluid flows will be in the facility. She may simulate them with simulation software. However, this only delivers vast columns of numbers or a one-dimensional representation which she will have to analyze bit by bit – a laborious task.

This will get easier in the future. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF in Magdeburg have developed a method that visualizes the processes inside energy conversion plants, e.g. such as photovoltaic, wind, biogas and hydroelectric power stations. To do so, they have coupled 3-D plant engineering and  simulation results with a virtual reality (VR) program developed at the IFF. “A special software tool has enabled us to visualize all the motion sequences  for the first time ever – at  just the push of a button,” explains Dr. Matthias Gohla, Manager of the Process and Plant Engineering Business Unit.

Arrows that move through the VR model show engineers the direction in which and speed at which fluids and gases flow through a plant. Colored markings indicate potential weak points such as areas where critical temperatures, deposits or erosions could occur. Is there a potential for collisions when the plant components are moving? The virtual insights facilitate engineering and should therefore ensure that plants become more efficient and have lower emissions.

“Our VR model also helps plant operators in day-to-day operation,” says project manager Dr. Martin Endig. For instance, extensive documentation may be implemented in the system. Instead of hunting through thick instruction manuals for desired information, a technician merely needs to click on the appropriate representation to obtain data on a certain plant component. Moreover, personnel can be trained to handle a plant before it is operational. Even critical situations can be simulated without endangering employees. Currently, the developers are working on another tool that notifies operators when a component is due for maintenance.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. "Virtually Engineering Power Plants." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090713085451.htm>.
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. (2009, July 21). Virtually Engineering Power Plants. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090713085451.htm
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. "Virtually Engineering Power Plants." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090713085451.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

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