Grainger CEME

Center for Electric Machinery and Electromechanics

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.”

Two CEME Professors Among Seven ECE Faculty Named Faculty Scholars/Fellows

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Associate Professor Alejandro Domínguez-García was named
William L. Everitt Scholar of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Assistant Professor Robert Pilawa-Podgurski was named Helm Fellow of Electrical and Computer Engineering. According to Provost Communication #6, “Scholar and Fellow appointments are given to faculty to signify a distinction beyond that implied by a normal professorship in the honoree’s department. Named fellows may be given to faculty at the Assistant Professor level or above; these appointments are permanent and come with a one-time award of funds to be used by the designee.”
The Faculty Fellows and Scholars Ceremony honoring all seven professors was held on April 10, 2016.


Undergrad Researchers Win Best Innovation Award in 2016 IEEE International Future Energy Challenge

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The 2016 U of I International Future Energy Challenge (IFEC) team of undergraduate researchers, including Grainger CEME Undergrad Research and Leadership awardee Carl Haken, participated in the year-long competition and won the Best Innovation Award at the final event held in July in Taipei, Taiwan. The team’s goal was to build an ac-dc power converter that inputs ac voltage and outputs 400 Volts dc with a greater than 96% conversion efficiency at 1.3 kW. The challenge was to make the converter compact and operate at 65 degrees Celsius. They used a novel circuit topology and digital control loop design never previously explored in this type of power converter. It allowed them to create a much smaller, yet more efficient design than a more conventional method would produce. Competition judges were impressed by the team’s presentation and in-depth understanding of the design. Applications include a more reliable and size-effective solution for data center power delivery architecture.

2016 IFEC team in Taiwan receiving the Best Innovation Award. Professor Pilawa is third from left, Professor Emeritus Krein is next to him, and Carl Haken is second from the right. Professor Krein was instrumental in founding the Future Energy Challenge in 2001, in partnership with the IEEE, the Department of Defense, and the National Association of State Energy Officials. The Grainger CEME sponsored the first University of Illinois team of five undergraduates.


The team was advised by Professor Robert Pilawa and his graduate students, Shibin Qin, Derek Chou, and Yutian Lee, assisted. Emeritus Professor Philip Krein, who was on hand to help hand out the awards, is a founder of the first Future Energy Challenge held in 2001. The U.S. Department of Energy, in partnership with the National Association of State Energy Officials, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the U. S. Department of Defense, and through Professor Krein, the Grainger CEME, organized the first Future Energy Challenge competition and subsequent International Future Energy Challenge events. This energy-based student-team design competition is held biannually.

ECE “Living Lab” wins R&D Magazine 2016 Laboratory of the Year Award

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The new Electrical and Computer Engineering Building (ECEB) was prepared by architects SmithGroupJJR working with their partner contractors and University of Illinois community members. ECEB was chosen 2016 Lab of the Year by R&D Magazine and the Lab Design conference. The Lab of the Year Award is an international competition representing all laboratory types including medical, research, teaching, and standards. The magazine’s editor, Ann Spiewak, reports that “Judging … was conducted by a blue-ribbon panel of laboratory architects, engineers, equipment manufacturers, researchers and the editorial staff of R&D Magazine and Laboratory Design.” Judging comments included: “[T]his project displayed good integration of lab and architecture. Furthermore, the project’s $319 per-square-foot cost is a great value and good use of the overall budget. The exterior is well-detailed, thoughtful modular planning went into the design, and it’s a fine example of ‘science on display.'”

Grainger CEME/IEEE Workshop: Technology Roadmap for Large Electrical Machines

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This workshop was held on April 5-6, 2016 in the new Electrical and Computer Engineering Building at the University of Illinois. It brought together leading researchers, thought leaders, application experts, and key stakeholders across the industry, academia and government to generate a consensus-based roadmap for transformational technologies for large (at the megawatt scale and higher) electrical machines with a five- to ten-year time frame. We identified key technology changes and gaps that will lead to ideas for future collaborative research and, ultimately, major advances in large electrical machines.

We examined significant progress made in several enabling technologies that could be leveraged to improve electrical machines, including new materials, advanced modeling and control techniques, etc. We explored how emerging applications, such as electric aircraft, offshore wind turbines, and subsea oil and gas processing, could be transformed by new electric machine and drive technology.

For ongoing progress, see

Engineering at Illinois leading $18.5 million center for power optimization

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Engineering at Illinois leading $18.5 million center for power optimization
The goal of the Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems (POETS) Center led by the University of Illinois is to pack more power into less space for electrical systems in cars, construction machines, aircraft, and mobile devices by tackling thermal and electrical challenges surrounding the mobile electronics and vehicle design as a single system. Heat is the opponent for engineers designing electrical vehicles and equipment, because electrical systems do not work without generating heat. And the harder they work, the hotter they get. When they get too hot, they operate inefficiently, fail or melt. Planes are grounded, electric drills stop, electric cars sit still, and bulldozer buckets won’t lift.
The U of I and its academic and industrial partners around the world will design and build new technologies, such as three-dimensional thermal circuitry for cooling, next-generation power converters and algorithms for coordinating the technologies automatically. They’ll look at these technologies from the microchip level up to the entire vehicle. Their work will enable manufacturers to make lighter, more compact and more efficient power systems for electric cars, power tools, and other mobile applications.
“We want to increase the total power density in vehicles by 10 to 100 times. That would translate into billions of liters of fuel saved and nearly double an electric car’s range,” said Professor Andrew Alleyne, professor of Mechanical Science and Engineering, who will guide the center. “Today’s electrical technologies are at their thermal limit. A systems approach is the only way we’ll push beyond the current state of the art,” he said in a release. Professor Alleyne is joined by Co-PI Paul Braun from Material Science and Engineering and, from Electrical and Computer Engineering, Professor Joseph Lyding, along with CEME Professors Philip Krein and Robert Pilawa.

POETS, funded by the National Science Foundation, is led by the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign in partnership with Howard University, Stanford University, the University of Arkansas, the Royal institute of Technology in Sweden, and the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil. Caterpillar and a dozen other companies across the United States will take part, testing the ideas and hiring students trained through POETS. The center will also work with schools to incorporate the concepts into K–12 classrooms and inspire young people to pursue careers in these fields.
Following is a complete list of POETS Partner Institutions: Arkansas Power Electronics International, Bosch, Caterpillar, Creative Thermal Solutions, CU Aerospace, Halliburton, Howard University, John Deere, ON Semiconductor, Parker Hannifin, Rolls-Royce, Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, Stanford University, Texas Instruments, Toyota, United Technologies Research Center, University of Arkansas, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of Sao Paolo in Brazil.
The National Science Foundation announced the POETS funding award in August 2015.