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Project Grant


Grant Description
High penetration wireless networking for nuclear power plant sensing.
Place of Performance
Santa Rosa, California 95409-5371 United States
Geographic Scope
Single Zip Code
Related Opportunity
Analysis Notes
Amendment Since initial award the End Date has been extended from 03/27/22 to 08/21/24 and the total obligations have increased 550% from $199,990 to $1,299,982.
Operant Networks was awarded Project Grant DESC0021914 worth $1,299,982 from the Office of Science in June 2021 with work to be completed primarily in Santa Rosa California United States. The grant has a duration of 3 years 2 months and was awarded through assistance program 81.049 Office of Science Financial Assistance Program.

SBIR Details

Research Type
High Penetration Wireless Networking for Nuclear Power Plant Sensing
Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) operators are facing unprecedented pressure to modernize their fleets for efficiency gains and to enable the safe extension of NPP life. Although digitalization projects which deploy numerous sensors for predictive maintenance are attractive; the extreme construction standards at NPP facilities make these efforts uniquely challenging. Data wiring has been found to be the largest cost barrier when implementing facility sensor upgrades. Naturally, wireless connectivity options are therefore of interest to the industry, but the same physical impediments to running wire also present a challenging radio frequency environment.Of currently available wireless protocol options, LoRaWAN is deemed to be the best fit; this is a low- power, low-bit-rate wireless protocol with excellent signal-to-noise and extremely long range.However, a significant drawback of today’s LoRaWAN is that it is a star-topology which only supports a single wireless hop and is incapable of reliably retrieving data from inside an NPP facility. This research addresses this hurdle with a novel and cost effective all-wireless LoRa multi-hop mesh in combination with LoRaWAN, forming a hybrid interconnection architecture for NPP sensors. The mesh optimizes wireless routing in the challenging NPP environment using the next generation networking technology, Named Data Networking (NDN). NDN presents significant advantages for this challenging sensor design and enables secure and resilient communications.In our Phase I project we demonstrated a proof-of-concept lab experiment to transmit commercial sensor data end-to-end through this hybrid connection of a first hop LoRaWAN and then multiple LoRa mesh hops. In parallel, we developed technical and economic models that strongly suggests that a modest number of inexpensive mesh gateways can meet today’s sensor density expectations with margin left for future expansion.In this Phase 2 project we will implement the software in a practical form to embed the hybrid communications functionality in inexpensive commercially available gateways. Utilizing our academic and industry research partners, we will further extend the capabilities of our NDN communications platform to address this specific nuclear sensor use case. We will then evaluate a system of reasonable scale and complexity for performance and throughput. Testing will be performed both in a national laboratory and at a commercial nuclear facility.Initial commercialization discussions with our partner organizations have been extremely encouraging, particularly given the potential cost savings. This commercialization work will be further extended in Phase 2. We will also investigate the potential of extending the use cases for wireless sensors to applications currently prevented by regulatory barriers; potentially expanding the total cost savings opportunities significantly. Additionally, our partners report that next generation reactor designs have thesame problems and opportunities as today’s legacy sites, so this proposed solution will have benefits for decades to come.
Topic Code
Solicitation Number


Last Modified 9/18/23

Period of Performance
Start Date
End Date
84.0% Complete

Funding Split
Federal Obligation
Non-Federal Obligation
Total Obligated
100.0% Federal Funding
0.0% Non-Federal Funding

Activity Timeline

Interactive chart of timeline of amendments to DESC0021914

Transaction History

Modifications to DESC0021914

Additional Detail

SAI Number
Award ID URI
Awardee Classifications
Small Business
Awarding Office
Funding Office
892401 SCIENCE
Awardee UEI
Awardee CAGE
Performance District
Dianne Feinstein
Alejandro Padilla

Budget Funding

Federal Account Budget Subfunction Object Class Total Percentage
Science, Energy Programs, Energy (089-0222) General science and basic research Grants, subsidies, and contributions (41.0) $1,099,992 100%
Modified: 9/18/23