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.
Three of five Illinois engineering projects funded in Siebel Energy Institute’s debut are from Grainger CEME professors
The University of Illinois is one of only eight research institutions worldwide chosen to be part of the Siebel Energy Institute (SEI) launched on August 4, 2015 with funding of nearly $1 million. Illinois projects represent research teams from the Departments of Computer Science, ECE, Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), the Coordinated Science Laboratory, and the Information Trust Institute. Grainger CEME faculty members are principal investigators on three of these projects.
According to Thomas M. Siebel, “The mission of the Siebel Energy Institute (SEI) is to dramatically accelerate primary research to advance the science of machine learning and analytics as it relates to energy, oil and gas, and power systems. All research that is supported by the SEI will be freely available in the public domain through the Non-Exclusive Royalty Free license protocol used by consortium member universities.”
CEME researchers’ projects funded in this inaugural grant are:
• Load Model Parameter Estimation Using Field Measurement Data for Voltage
Optimization Applications in Distribution Systems
Lead researcher: Thomas Overbye
• A Measurement-Based Optimal Power Flow Approach to Voltage Control in Power
Lead researchers: Alejandro Domínguez-García and Peter Sauer
• Characterizing the Performance and Cost-Effectiveness of Energy and Water
Efficiency Measures in Buildings
Lead researchers: Ashlynn Stillwell (CEE) and Philip Krein
Google’s “Little Box” Challenge
An ECE ILLINOIS’ Power Electronics team of eight students guided by Professor Robert Pilawa-Podgurski is one of 18 finalists out of more than 100 entries in Google’s and IEEE Power Electronics Society’s Little Box Challenge. Theirs was chosen based on achieved power density and efficiency, as well as novelty of the idea. The competition goal is to stimulate research in dc-ac inverters, which are essential components in renewable energy integration, grid storage, and electric transportation.
The competition requirements are to create a smaller, more compact power inverter reduced from the current “cooler” to “tablet” size, maximum. The Illinois team’s entry is closer to a “credit card.” Another goal is ease of use. With a small efficient design, the inverter can be integrated into the original power source, allowing quick access, making alternative power sources, like solar panels and electric cars, easier to handle.
The team decided to innovate on circuit and control design in order to have a long-term research impact on the field of power electronics. They worked on a shoe-string budget nights and weekends and learned things that were outside their direct area of expertise. Professor Pilawa noted that this made the students better engineers and that they will be highly sought by industry and academia.
Yutian Lei, Christopher Barth, Wen-Chuen Liu, Andrew Stillwell, and Shibin Qin, who are all graduate students and Intae Moon, an undergraduate, all worked on the project for portions of the past year. Since September of this year, graduate students Thomas Foulkes, Derek Chou, Zitao Liao, and Zichao Ye have also helped with improvement to the final prototype. “They’ve all put in a tremendous amount of work,” Pilawa said, “even while managing their coursework and other responsibilities.”
A more detailed technical explanation of the U of I entry can be found in “Little Box” under Research Projects: Motor Design, Operation, and Control.
Professor Pete Sauer won the 2015 Tau Beta Pi Daniel C. Drucker Eminent Faculty Award, which recognizes faculty in the College of Engineering who have received national or international acclaim for dedication to academic excellence through teaching and research and have made exemplary contributions to the understanding of their fields.
Pete’s research over the decades has laid the groundwork for many of the advances in the electric power industry that are helping to shape the emerging smart grid. His work has impacted electric power-system planning and operations in areas such as power flow analysis, voltage-collapse mitigation, rotating electric machinery analysis, modeling of power grid dynamics, and general power system reliability analysis. He has been consistently ranked as an outstanding teacher by his students (many return to see him after graduation) and by the IEEE Power Engineering Society (PES) when, in 1997, he received their “Outstanding Power Engineering Award.” Pete has worked tirelessly to help advance the electric power engineering profession by helping others worldwide advance in their careers. Most recently he is serving as the PES Vice President for Education. In 2003 was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and has been active in several leadership positions.