Purdue tech startup lands $6.9M grant from Department of Energy

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A startup affiliated with Purdue University has received a $6.9 million grant from the Department of Energy to develop a system to predict when nuclear reactor components need maintenance or replacement before they fail and cause power outages.

Blue Wave AI Labs is using predictive analytics to operate nuclear reactors across the United States and to help them operate as safely and efficiently as possible, company officials said.

Tom Gruenwald, who received his doctorate in physics from Purdue, and Gina Pattermann, a serial entrepreneur, founded Blue Wave in 2017.

The Blue Wave research team, based at the Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, will use the funds to analyze billions of nuclear reactor data points.

Gruenwald said the Blue Wave team is among the first in the world to use data from nuclear reactors to successfully create AI and machine learning models to predict future evolution of reactor properties within the environment of nuclear plant components.

“This award will allow us to use our scientific and engineering expertise and experience, along with our innovative AI and machine learning systems, to develop solutions for better predictions of potential maintenance and other issues occurring within nuclear plants,” Gruenwald said in a statement.

The U.S. has nearly 100 commercial nuclear reactors at 60 power plants in 30 states. Gruenwald said it is important to be able to analyze and predict the behavior of the components in those reactors because a single-day shutdown of one reactor could lead to a loss in excess of $1 million.

“Our AI algorithms provide advantages for both safety and efficiency,” he added. “We purposely located our company in West Lafayette because Purdue and the state of Indiana both provide great resources to help startups grow. You really cannot find the combination of available talent and a supportive state government anywhere else in the country.”

Other Blue Wave projects include using AI for development of robots to maneuver jet fighters in aerial combat as well as other AI-based projects related to national security and defense operations, company officials said.

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