ORONO — The next generation of harsh environment materials and wireless sensor techniques are the focus of a $2.34 million Department of Energy’s EPSCoR award for research led by University of Maine researchers Mauricio Pereira da Cunha and Robert Lad.

The DOE award was one of nine initiatives funded nationwide for a total of $22 million. The UMaine research received a DOE EPSCoR implementation grant in 2019.

Pereira da Cunha, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Lad, professor of physics, will lead an interdisciplinary, multi-institution team of researchers. They include eight UMaine faculty members and other researchers from the University of New Hampshire, Bates College, and the University of Southern Maine. 

Their primary goal is to address the pressing need for a new generation of sensor materials, devices and systems that can operate under extreme temperatures (up to 2,000 F) and harsh environments that may consist of erosive particles and oxidizing, reducing or corrosive gases. These types of conditions are often found in the rapidly expanding energy sector, such as power plants, gas turbine generators, renewable power generation and advanced manufacturing.

Cost savings and overall efficiency and safety improvements can be achieved with advanced sensor devices and packaging materials, such as those proposed for this project, according to the researchers. Those sensor devices and packaging materials must meet a demanding set of operational requirements, which will be extensively researched over the life of the project.

In the past two decades, Pereira da Cunha and Lad have collaborated on similar projects and are nationally recognized leaders in the research and development of harsh environment wireless sensor technology. This latest DOE award will allow the research team to advance new technology in harsh environment and wireless sensor research, and make UMaine a go-to hub for this expanding technology. 

The Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is intended to improve geographic distribution of federal research and development funding, strengthen research capabilities in underserved regions of the country, and enable institutions in those regions to better compete for federal funding. Maine is one of 28 jurisdictions designated under EPSCoR.