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University of Maine-led Research Project Awarded $2.34 Million from the Department of Energy


The Department of Energy (DOE) has granted two University of Maine researchers, Mauricio Pereira da Cunha and Robert Lad, $2.34 million for their research regarding harsh environment materials and wireless sensors.

Over the last twenty years, these two professors have collaborated to work on similar endeavors. Currently, they are recognized for their research on this subject at the national level. 

  Lad has been teaching at UMaine since 1988 as a physics professor. Pereira da Cunha is a professor of computer engineering and electrical engineering who has been teaching at UMaine for over two decades. 

According to a UMaine News article published on Sept. 1, the overarching goal of this project “is to address the pressing need for a new generation of sensor materials, devices and systems that can operate under extreme temperatures (up to 2000 F) and harsh environments that may consist of erosive particles and oxidizing, reducing or corrosive gases.”

Although these environments appear intense and like something that would not be encountered in everyday life, these conditions are common across different energy areas. Some common locations include power plants and gas turbine generators. 

One practical application of this research is that, by using materials better suited for harsh environments in the wireless sensors, companies will save money on repairing their equipment because they will not break as often. 

The grant money will allow the pair to propel their research forward in new, innovative ways. Lad and Pereira de Cunha also aspire to make UMaine an epicenter of wireless sensor research in harsh conditions. The projects that were awarded a grant were selected by a competitive peer review process, and only eight other projects were chosen, aside from UMaine’s project. The other schools who were awarded include Boise State University, Montana State University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of Nevada Reno, the University of Rhode Island, the University of South Alabama and West Virginia University. 

According to, the decision to award these grants is to help slow the process of climate change. 

“These projects are located in communities traditionally underserved by federal research and development (R&D) funding so that all parts of the country are central to efforts to solve the climate crisis and meet President Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.” 

When these projects obtain government funding, it ensures that even people in communities without money can make a difference in solving the climate crisis. 

In total, the DOE gave out $22 million in funds to the schools chosen for the competitive grant awards. Through research, many experts are finding creative ways to combat climate change in their underfunded schools and surrounding communities. The DOE hopes this funding will help expedite and expand ongoing research projects around the country. The UMaine community is excited to see what new progress both Pereira da Cunha and Lad will make with their research this academic year.

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