Grainger CEME

Center for Electric Machinery and Electromechanics

Nathan Brooks and Zichao Ye Win Best Paper Awards at IEEE COMPEL 2017

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2017 COMPEL Best Paper Award Winners

Nathan Brooks, Prof. Pilawa, and Zichao Ye

Nathan Charles Brooks and Zichao Ye, advisees of associate professor Robert Pilawa-Podgurski, each received a best paper award at the 2017 IEEE Workshop on Control and Modeling for Power Electronics (COMPEL) hosted by Stanford University. COMPEL consists of keynote speeches, workshops, lectures and individual submissions and is known for renowned researchers in the field of power electronics. Two of the five Best Paper Awards (out of 198 presentations) were awarded to CEME students.

Nathan’s paper, “Control Design of an Active Power Pulsation Buffer Using an Equivalent Series-Resonant Impedance Model,” co-authored by Shibin Qin, derives and validates a new ac to dc power converter control method, which will lead to higher efficiency and smaller size. Applications range from datacenters and electric vehicles, to LED lighting. Brooks received his electrical engineering BS from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 2016, and is in his second year at Illinois pursuing his PhD in electrical engineering. As an engineer, he enjoys the practical application of science on real-world problems, and power electronics “constantly satiates his desire to explore and learn diverse and challenging ideas.”

Ye’s paper, “Investigation of Capacitor Voltage Balancing in Practical Implementations of Flying Capacitor Multilevel Converters,” co-authored by Yutian Lei and Zitao Liao, investigates the capacitor voltage imbalance issue of the popular multi-level power converter topology. Key applications benefiting from Ye’s research discoveries are power converters for electric vehicles such as cars and future aircraft, along with high efficiency data centers. Ye received his bachelor’s degree in 2014 from ECE ILLINOIS and is now in his fourth year pursuing his PhD in electrical engineering. He likes power electronics because of its interdisciplinary nature and hands-on approach to engineering. He states, “the world is always going to have continued power needs, and power electronics is a subject that requires very broad understanding and intersects many disciplinary areas. Knowledge of circuit design, control, electromagnetics, and thermal management are just some of many fields necessary to address power electronics design from a system perspective.”

Brooks said that studying with Professor Pilawa, “we get the chance to work on some exciting projects realizing and improving the design of electric aircraft, data center power delivery, and solar-photovoltaics amongst others, which even now begin to dramatically affect people’s lives.” Ye added, “It is my great pleasure to work in this amazing research group… and as everyone is so hard-working, you will never find the labs uninhabited.”

Professor Pilawa-Podgurski was thrilled to see his students’ work recognized. He concludes, “COMPEL is the top power electronics control conference in the world, and it is a great opportunity for the students to share the results of their work with the leaders of our field. Nathan and Zichao worked very hard to not only perform research at the highest level, but also to clearly present their results in both written and oral communication. It is always great when such efforts are noticed by our peers, and it encourages us to keep pushing for excellence in research.”

Taken from an article by Joseph Park, ECE ILLINOIS

NASA 2017 Annual Review on More Electric Aircraft

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Illinois professors and graduate students are collaborating with NASA to help more-electric aircraft take flight. This means that electric machines and power electronics must have both ultra-high efficiency and be lightweight in the 1 MW power class. Prof. Haran and his team of graduate students presented results from recent spin tests, manufacturing insights, loss validation measurements, and winding quality analysis for their 1 MW high-speed, low-inductance, permanent magnetic machine prototype.

Haran and Pilawa group at 2017 NASA annual review

Haran and Pilawa groups at NASA annual review

To drive Prof. Haran’s electric motor, Prof. Pilawa and his team are developing flying capacitor multilevel inverters. The research presentations by both the Haran and the Pilawa research groups were well received during the NASA Annual Review at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Prof. Haran’s team includes graduate students: Andy Yoon, Xuan Yi, Nathaniel Renner, Aaron Anderson, Jackson Lenz, Xiaolong Zhang, Austin Jin, Dongsu  Lee, and Lijun Zheng. Prof. Pilawa’s team includes: Nate Pallo, Thomas Foulkes, Chris Barth, and Samantha Coday.

CEME Collaborator Ron Harley died on October 30, 2017

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CEME Collaborator Prof. Ron Harley

It is with great sadness that Professor Tom Habetler writes to let you know of the passing of our friend and colleague, Ron Harley. Ron passed away at his home last night, surrounded by family and friends, after a battle with cancer.

In 1999, Ron joined the Georgia Tech School of ECE, where he held the Duke Power Distinguished Professorship. He was appointed as a Regents’ Professor in 2009 and also served as the electrical energy technical interest group chair. Ron was highly respected and admired by his colleagues here in ECE, at Georgia Tech, and in his IEEE professional societies in controls, industry applications, power engineering, power electronics, and neural networks. Prior to joining Georgia Tech in 1999, he was on the faculty for 27 years at the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa, where he served as a professor, electrical engineering department head, and dean of engineering. He was a Fellow of IEEE, IET (London), Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, and Member of the Academy of Science in South Africa.

Ron was a visiting professor at the Georgia Tech School of ECE in 1994-95 and also served as a visiting professor at Iowa State University and Clemson University. He published over 600 journal and conference papers, and he graduated almost 40 Ph.D. students and over 50 M.S. students throughout his career. He was a popular teacher and mentor with both undergraduate and graduate students, and for the last 10 years, he advised undergraduate research teams through our Opportunity Research Scholars Program.

Ron is survived by his wife, June; daughters Ilona, of Durban, and Linda, who is a faculty member in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering; and two granddaughters. He was preceded in death by his son, Keith.

Ali Bazzi, Editor-in-Chief, IEEE Transportation Electrification eNewsletter

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Ali Bazzi, PhD 2010 U of I (P. Krein, adviser), Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut, was named IEEE Transportation Electrification eNewsletter Editor-in-Chief. This publication addresses four domains: Terrestrial (land based), Nautical (Ocean, lakes and bodies of water), Aeronautical (Air and Space) and Commercial-Manufacturing. Its main topics are batteries, advanced charging, telematics, systems architectures that include schemes for both external interface (electric utility) and vehicle internal layout, drivetrains, and the connected vehicle.

Olaoluwapo Ajala, Runner-up for the Illinois Innovation Prize

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The Illinois Innovation Prize, administered by the Technology Entrepreneur Center in the College of Engineering, is awarded on an annual basis to the most innovative students on campus. Three runners-up for the Illinois Innovation Prize each received $2,500 to further their work. Ajala’s research is focused on energy resource optimization technology (see research summary below). His passion for energy stems from his childhood in Nigeria where the lack of constant power supply creates major obstacles for homes and businesses. Owners have to purchase small, and often inadequate, diesel generators, battery-storage systems, solar photovoltaic systems, and other small-scale power generators to meet their electricity needs. Ajala’s innovation electrically connects homes and businesses within a small geographical area to create stand-alone power systems known as micro grids. The micro-grid concept is a common one, but his technology will allow systems is these areas to be interconnected and for home and business owners to share electricity from various sources.

Zunum Aero – Start-Up to Reinvent Regional Air Travel

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A start-up co-founded by the Grainger CEME Associate Director, Kiruba Haran, is trying to reinvent regional air travel. Zunum Aero, the Hummingbird of the Skies*, is based in Kirkland, WA and focused on small regional jets powered with electric propellers. The company has received financial backing from Boeing and JetBlue Technology Ventures, a subsidiary of JetBlue Airways, and is currently in the “build” phase with products expected in the 2020s. The first aircraft introduced into the market will have a ten-fifteen passenger capacity and travel up to 700 miles. By 2030, the start-up aims to have planes flying over 1,000 miles carrying up to fifty passengers. The hybrid-electric aircraft are projected to improve the economics of regional trips with significantly lower operating costs. These small, electric jets will also cut travel times since fewer Transportation Security Administration regulations are enforced on smaller planes. *Zunum is a derivation of tzunuum, the Mayan word for hummingbird. Think small, fast, and quiet!

IEEE/PES/PELS/IAS GaN and Surface-Mount Soldering Workshop

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The IEEE/PES/PELS/IAS student group sponsored a GaN and Surface-Mount Soldering Workshop on September 9th attended by fifteen students (four undergrad and eleven grads) to learn the best practices of soldering and laboratory safety. Undergrad student Won Ho, who was mentored over the summer by Chris Barth, led the workshop. Students with little or no previous soldering skills

Won Ho with workshop participants

learned how to solder large discrete components, as well as very small components using the Finetech Machine (see the machine at bottom right in photo below). Everyone left the workshop with new skills. The IEEE/PES/PELS/IAS student group was encouraged to make this an annual event, teaching skills that are foundational for ECE 300- and 400-level classes.

Illini Solar Car

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Illini Solar Car is a multidisciplinary team of students who design and build solar cars to race in cross-country solar races like the World Solar Challenge and the American Solar Challenge. These races allow students both to apply their technical knowledge to build a road-worthy car and learn soft skills in managing race logistics, such as raising funds. The team, currently in its third year, aims to compete in the World Solar Challenge this October along with teams from other top universities such as MIT, Stanford University, the University of California- Berkeley, and the University of Michigan. The future goal is to build road-worthy and practical multiple-seater solar cars.
Most of the car’s components are designed and built in-house. These include the maximum power point tracker (98.75% efficient and 10 times lighter than the competition), the battery protection system (for the 20 kg lithium-ion battery pack), the motor controller (controls the 95% efficiency wheel hub motors), the solar array (soldered and encapsulated in the clean room), and the carbon fiber semi-monocoque. These components are integrated and adjusted to make the car efficient, reliable, and lightweight (the car is expected to weigh only 375 lbs.).
Professors Pilawa and Philpott, in Mechanical Engineering, are advising the team composed of more than 50 actively involved students from various departments, such as the Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Aerospace Engineering. Graduate students Derek Chou and Phuc Huynh (see their research summaries below) are working with the mostly undergraduate team.
This project is sponsored by various companies, including 3M, Siemens, Molex, General Electric, Chevron, and Phillips Chemical; alumni, and on-campus entities, including the University of Illinois Student Sustainability Committee, the ECE Department, and the Grainger Center for Electric Machinery and Electromechanics.

Illini Formula Electric Update

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The unveiling of the 2017 Illini Formula Electric (IFE) car was held in March at the Engineering Open House (EOH). Lan Li, vice president of IFE, reported that the team was able to drive and test their car with a great audience. Although they test their car each year at EOH, this year, she noted, they had the best performance by far.
Their car is now “successfully functional and running” with the electrical and mechanical systems mostly complete. Only minor adjustments are needed before they go to Chrysler’s test track on April 7th and 8th, which will be the time to test the car’s full functionality before the Formula Electric competition in June in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The Illini team started in 2009 as the Illini Hybrid Racing to participate in the relatively new Formula Hybrid racing competition in New Hampshire. In 2012 the team switched to the Illini Formula Electric, with the goal to build a fully electric vehicle for the 2013 Formula Electric competition in Lincoln, Nebraska. This year’s team is led by fifteen undergraduates. The Grainger CEME has been a team supporter for many years.

Three CEME PhD Grads Author Microgrids and other Local Area Power and Energy Systems

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CEME PhD grads Alexis Kwasinski (’07) – Associate Professor and R. K. Mellon Faculty Fellow, University of Pittsburgh; Wayne Weaver (’07) – Dave House Associate Professor, Michigan Tech; and Robert S. Balog (’06) – Associate Professor and Director of the Renewable Energy and Advanced Power Electronics Research Laboratory, Texas A&M all earned the PhD degree under Professor Emeritus Philip Krein and co-authored Microgrids and other Local Area Power and Energy Systems. Published by Cambridge University Press, it came out in hardcover on August 31, 2016.  
According to the publisher,  “Microgrids …” describes the “formation, integration, planning, composition and operation of microgrids. It explains how local power systems can address limitations in conventional electric power grids and provides insights into the practical implementation needs and outcomes of microgrid technology. All aspects of microgrid design and applications are covered, including the main technologies involved in microgrids and other local area power and energy systems. The reliability and economic characteristics of microgrid system architecture, energy storage and grid interaction are explored in depth. Over 300 illustrations and real-world application examples make this a fully self-contained resource, ideal for graduate students and professionals in electrical, mechanical and chemical engineering and materials science.”