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.'”
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 http://machineroadmap.ece.illinois.edu
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.
US Department of Energy Race to Zero Student Design Competition
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Race to Zero Student Design competition (Race to Zero) engages undergraduates, grad students, and university faculty to become part of a new leadership movement to achieve truly sustainable homes. The competition is based on a real-world scenario where a builder needs to update an existing product line (house plan) to a high-performance house design or is developing a new high performance home product line. The mandatory performance target is the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home specification.
The 2015 Race to Zero Student Design competition held on April 18-20, 2015 at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO, had 33 teams from 27 US and Canadian universities competing to design cost-effective, zero energy homes for mainstream builders. The Grainger CEME-supported team was one of four grand winner finalists with their entry, “The Suncatcher Cottage” a redesign of a building on the grounds of University of Illinois owned Allerton Park.
CEME alumni Robert Balog and Pradeep Shenoy welcomed to APEC Administrative Committee
Robert Balog (PhD 2006) and Pradeep Shenoy (PhD 2010) were among six new administrative committee members selected to help run IEEE Applied Power Electronics Conferences (APEC). These young professionals belong to the fifth generation of power electronics engineers (PELS), given a field that is now 110 years old. If a 25-30 year impact period per generation of engineers, then the young professionals and students belong to the fifth generation. They will shape PELS’ future.
Pradeep chairs a vibrant committee of young professionals and students to help young professional members become connected in the PELS community. The committee plans match-making receptions, mentoring, and other unique growth opportunities. In 2015, five events were scheduled around the globe, starting at APEC, followed by three editions of the IEEE Energy Conversion Congress and Exposition (ECCE): the International Conference on Power Electronics and ECCE-Asia, the European Conference on Power Electronics and Application – ECCE-Europe, and ECCE in Montreal. The last event was held at the first IEEE Southern Power Electronics conference in Brazil.
Formula Hybrid Competition in Loudon, New Hampshire – April 27-30, 2015
The U of I was one of nine teams competing in the fully-electric division of the Formula Hybrid competition held annually in Loudon, New Hampshire. They placed fourth out of nine all-electric vehicle teams. While they did not pass the rigorous electrical inspection (only one team out of the nine was able to pass and compete in the dynamic race events), they did well in the design and presentation aspects of the competition. They also received valuable feedback from judges and representatives from Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, and GM who attended the competition. Already at work to improve the current car’s design for next year, they are excited to use what they’ve learned to make a winning race car.
Two power-area students among seven attending CRA-Women Graduate Cohort Workshop
Jiangmeng Zhang (see research on page 38) and Archana Manjanath were among seven University of Illinois women chosen to attend the annual Computing Research Association Women Graduate Workshop held this spring in San Francisco. The workshop was developed to help female graduate students improve networking skills and leverage their degrees. Three hundred women were chosen from 671 applicants.
Accomplished engineers in various career paths, including industry and academia, shared their stories, achievements and advice. Jiangmeng felt it was empowering to hear how these women had overcome gender bias in the work place. Archana learned about standing out through resume building and communicating her career goals. She thinks women engineering clubs and societies on campus help in eliminating gender biases in the workplace. Both felt that the ECE power and energy group is gender-inclusive and supportive of women earning graduate engineering degrees.
Srikanthan Sridharan won the IEEE Transportation Electrification Conference Best Paper award
Srikanthan Sridharan is helping make electric cars more efficient — and more realistic for public use — by adding a voltage controller to the electric vehicle motor. The controller receives commands from the system and then puts out only the voltage needed. For example, a car going uphill would need more power than when it going downhill. Sridharan’s paper, “Optimizing Variable DC-link Voltage for an Induction Motor Drive over a Dynamic Drive Cycle,” shows that by making voltage use more flexible, the car can use high- and low-level voltage for various functions all the while decreasing loss in the system. This allows the vehicle to get more distance and range from a single battery charge. Losses are typically reduced by 20 percent, and the new design can improve many parts of the industry.
Professor Philip Krein, coauthor and Srikanthan’s adviser, noted that industry participants dominate the IEEE Transportation Electrification Conference and Expo and usually present problems for academia to solve. He was surprised that they wanted to consider how to enhance performance. The authors hope engineers will pick up this power electronics design and apply it in vehicles.
Sridharan is now working at Ford. He likes his interdisciplinary work, full of motor drives, electric machines, power electronics, and control systems. He said that Professor Krein helped him explore all these areas, encouraged him to look at them himself, and then directed him in his research.
iSEE funds Professor Overbye’s research related to renewable energy and transportation
The Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) awarded seed funding to Professor Thomas Overbye for his interdisciplinary project exploring renewable energy sources for transportation. The project entitled, “Interdependent Critical Infrastructure Systems for Synergized Utilization of Multiple Energy Sources toward Sustainable Vehicular Transportation,” will create a framework to expand and operate interdependent critical infrastructure systems (ICIs) using multiple renewable energy sources to fuel better regional and national transportation systems. He noted, “It will provide significant guidance to 1) policies for expanding renewable sources of energy and environmental conservation, 2) strategies for infrastructure design and management and for vehicle industry development, 3) information for community development, and 4) new curriculum for education and capacity building for the emerging ICIs science and engineering.”
The project is funded through iSEE’s second round of seed funding, which totals more than $1.2 million. iSEE is supporting four major interdisciplinary research projects at Illinois. Overbye will work with Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Professor Ximing Cai, who does interdisciplinary modeling of water-food-energy systems and infrastructure; Agricultural and Consumer Economics Professor Madhu Khanna, an expert in environmental and economic policy analysis; CEE Associate Professor Yanfeng Ouyang, who works with logistics systems and transportation networks; and CEE Assistant Professor Ashlynn Stillwell, a water-energy nexus scholar.
ECE grad students host their sixth annual Power and Energy Conference at Illinois
Graduate students in ECE’s power and energy systems organized their sixth annual Power and Energy Conference at Illinois (PECI), which took place February 20-21 at the I-Hotel Conference Center. PECI featured keynote speakers and presentations from professionals and students throughout industry and academia. Presenters gave talks on topics from renewable energy to microgrids and distributed power generation, and prominent companies including Ameren, John Deere, and Texas Instruments sent officials to speak at the event and sponsored it along with S&C, PowerWorld, ADX Research, and Intel.
In addition to providing power professionals a venue for presenting their research, PECI is designed to help speakers improve their presentation skills. The organizers have created a highly developed commenting system, in which attendees are encouraged to give the presenters extensive constructive feedback. Prizes are awarded both for the best paper and for the best commenters. All of the feedback is sent anonymously to each presenter.
Benefits from PECI also include exchanging ideas and networking. After a PhD student finished his presentation, one of the co-directors discovered she worked on a lot of similar research goals, and in a twenty-minute chat, agreed to exchange data and collaborate on research. And after a PECI attendee mentioned that he had been stuck on a research problem, a fellow attendee happened to have written a paper solving that problem. He sent the student his paper and the student rushed back to the lab that same day to integrate it into his research.
Finally, PECI provides a place to meet power engineering peers from all over the country and the world at one event. Universities worldwide are attempting to solve the same problems in power engineering and each tends to come at them with a particular approach. PECI allows attendees to meet people with different ideas to avoid contracting academic tunnel vision and it gets researchers out of their bubbles.
The ECE Department is helpful in working with the students to set up PECI. Department Head Bill Sanders gives a talk at the opening to welcome people to PECI, Power faculty chair sessions, Assistant Director of Corporate Relations Breanne Ertmer is instrumental in connecting students with great presenters from industry, and the Grainger Center provides administrative support.