University of Arkansas engineering researchers will lead a national center devoted to cybersecurity for electric power utilities, made possible by a $12.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and augmented by $3.3 million in matching funds from research partners.
“The impact of this work is tremendous," Alan Mantooth, UA distinguished professor of electrical engineering, said in a news release. "All too frequently, we are hearing of how foreign entities are hacking into U.S. computer systems. This center’s mission is directly focused on protecting America’s electric energy delivery system, and we are pleased to have a great team with which to approach these challenges.”
As principal investigator and director of the new center, Mantooth will lead a team of researchers who will identify and develop solutions for vulnerabilities across the U.S. power grid. Their goal is to protect hardware assets, make systems less susceptible to cyber attack and provide reliable delivery of electricity if an attack were to occur.
Researchers will develop algorithms for software modules that can be loaded onto systems and equipment such as fault-current limiters, breakers, measurement units, relays, wireless communications systems and power-line communications.
“By providing more reliable delivery of power as a result of reducing outages caused by cyber-attacks, the electric power system remains up, and economic loss associated with downtime is eliminated,” Mantooth said. “This is what we are seeking. And, from a homeland security perspective, the electric power grid in general becomes less susceptible to attack.”
In addition to the UA researchers, the new cybersecurity research center includes faculty from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Carnegie Mellon University, Florida International University and Lehigh University.
Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, a Little Rock-based generation and transmission cooperative, will serve as an industry partner.
Mantooth, who holds the Twenty-First Century Research Leadership Chair in the College of Engineering, is executive director of the National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission, a 7,000-SF, $5 million power electronic test facility at the University of Arkansas.