Grainger CEME

Center for Electric Machinery and Electromechanics

S’mores Solar Oven Demo and ECE Solar Panels

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Joyce Mast & Annabelle Epplin

Joyce Mast & Annabelle Epplin

Annabelle Epplin, the 2020 winner of The Grainger CEME Undergraduate Research and Leadership Award, and Joyce Mast, Coordinator for The Grainger Center for Electric Machinery and Electromechanics, demonstrated making s’mores with a solar oven while discussing the Electrical and Computer Engineering Building (ECEB)’s solar array.

ECEB has about 950 solar panels producing about 275 kilowatts of energy during peak usage. This is about one fifth of the building’s needs. Sixty panels (see arrow, center right, below) are dedicated to student and faculty research. Each panel can immediately convert energy produced into ready-to-use ac energy, directly connecting to the university’s power grid. ECEB’s panels comprise one of the largest ac solar installations of its kind and allow a 30% reduction in energy emissions, which is about 200,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. The solar panels figured strongly into ECEB’s achieving LEED Platinum certification.

s'moreFor a video of ECEB’s solar panels and information on melting marshmallows in a pizza-box solar oven, see

Carle Illinois Welcomes Haran and Oelze

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Kiruba Haran

Kiruba Haran

Eight faculty from The Grainger College of Engineering have joined Carle Illinois College of Medicine with Health Innovation Professor appointments, including Illinois ECE professors Kiruba Haran and Michael Oelze. The new faculty deliver on Carle Illinois’ strategy to leverage the University of Illinois’ exceptional faculty to serve as agents of change in medical education, innovation, and research at the world’s first engineering-based college of medicine.

“As champions of interdisciplinary health research, the new professors will advance the discovery and translation of breakthrough health innovations that have the potential to improve patient care and outcomes,” said King Li, Dean of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. “They will help to pioneer new approaches to medical education and integrate health innovation concepts into graduate and undergraduate courses across the UIUC campus.”

The new Health Innovation faculty represent a range of engineering disciplines and are positioned to be drivers of innovation in medicine and healthcare, which will fuel health-related funding from government agencies, industry, foundations, and individuals, and inspire a range of new cause-based philanthropic giving campaigns.
“Carle Illinois Health Innovation Professors recognize the value of translating new ideas to innovations and to impact, and several are founders of new biotech, medical device, and digital health companies. They will help Carle Illinois to fill the Research Park and the envisioned Health Innovation Translator facility, fulfill the vision of the Discovery Partners Institute, and promote economic prosperity throughout Illinois,” said Illinois ECE Professor Stephen Allen Boppart, Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering and Carle Illinois’ Executive Associate Dean and Chief Diversity Officer.

Haran’s research focuses on electric transportation, electrical machines and drive systems, and power and energy systems. His research group is focused on electro-mechanical energy conversion technologies, with new interests in how these can be applied to medical devices and medical technologies.

Excerpted from an article by Ryann Monahan, Carle Illinois College of Medicine.

Illinois ECE Graduate Student Wins Prestigious IEEE Awards

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Megan Culler

Megan Culler

llinois ECE graduate student Megan Culler, advisee of Professor Peter Sauer, recently won the 2019 IEEE-USA Jim Watson Student Professional Awareness Achievement Award, recognizing IEEE members who volunteer to share their professional experiences with students and encourage active, lifelong IEEE membership. This award was established in 2011, but this is the first year that a student has been selected as the recipient.

Culler also received the IEEE Power and Energy Society (PES) Outstanding Student Scholarship Award for IEEE Region 4. This award is given to a graduate student who is pursuing a career in electric power and energy engineering and has demonstrated a high level of academic success, contributions to community and humanitarian needs, and leadership in advancing student engagement within PES. This is the first year of this award and she is the only recipient from the United States.

“It’s a huge honor to receive these awards because IEEE is such a large and prestigious organization in my field,” Culler said. “The 2019 IEEE-USA Jim Watson Student Professional Awareness Achievement Award means a lot to me because I’ve been involved as a student leader in IEEE for pretty much my full college career. I’m honored to be the first student to receive this award, and I think it speaks to all of the dedicated student leaders for IEEE that bring incredible programs to their campuses.” Among these has been the IEEE Power and Energy Conference at Illinois for which she served in registration in 2020 and as co-director in 2021.
Culler plans on graduating in May 2021 with her Master’s in Electrical Engineering with concentrations in power systems and cybersecurity. Following graduation, she will be working at the Idaho National Laboratory where she will use her background in power systems and cybersecurity to work on projects for power grid resiliency and security, with an emphasis on integrating distributed energy resources.

Excerpted from an article by Joseph Park in ECE Newsroom. Read more about Culler’s achievements on the IEEE USA,with%20students%2C%20to%20encourage%20active%2C%20lifelong%20IEEE%20membership.

Huynh Named 2021 Siebel Scholar

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Phuc Thanh Huynh

Phuc Thanh Huynh

Illinois ECE PhD student Phuc Thanh Huynh, advisee of Professor Arijit Banerjee, has been named a 2021 Siebel Scholar. The Siebel Scholars program recognizes the most talented graduate students at top universities in the fields of business, computer science, bioengineering, and energy science. Each year around 90 students are selected based on academic merit and leadership potential and receive $35,000 in support toward their final year of graduate studies.
Siebel Scholars are examining some of today’s most pressing problems, advancing on solutions, and forming a lifelong community. Huynh is an Energy Science Scholar and wants to build a sustainable and energy-secure future.
Huynh is currently focused on the creation of a highly efficient, reliable, and compact electro-mechanical conversion system for offshore wind-energy harvesting. He also has an interest in electrical system integration and product diversification for wind farms.
“A globally sustainable future is essential and fascinating,” Huynh said. “As a power engineer, I have been innovating the renewable-energy harvesting technologies to produce low-cost and environment-friendly electricity. Interdisciplinary collaboration is crucial to broaden the impacts of innovations. Being a Siebel Scholar grants me access to a very unique personal and professional network that has the brightest engineering, science, and business talents. This community will provide me enormous resources to help speed up our transformation to a globally sustainable future as well as to spread my inspiration to the next generations.”
Outside of his research, Huynh has held multiple leadership positions. In 2017, he served as co-director for the IEEE Power and Energy Conference at Illinois, and in 2018 he served as the president for IEEE PES/PELS/IAS student chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

For more information on the Siebel Scholars program, see from which this article was excerpted.

InSPIRE Solar Powered Outdoors Table (SPOT)

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Solar panels mounted on picnic table to power outlets for charging cell phones, tables, etc.The SPOT project is a completely student-designed and -implemented outdoors table retrofitted with solar panels used to charge an off-grid solar energy system. The plan is to provide students a space to sit and study outside while charging their devices (cellphones, tablets, laptops, etc.) using solar energy, and allow them to interact with solar energy first-hand through the panels right in front of them. A QR code on the SPOT will direct students and registered student organization (RSO) leads to a website detailing design and construction plans. This will allow students and other RSOs to replicate the project or parts of it. The website will also include instructions to create an off-grid solar energy system, one of the most easily customizable and accessible types of solar-energy projects for anybody with an introductory understanding of electronics.
The current design includes four 185W BP solar panels with a 24V 50AH battery bank. Solar panels were made available by the ECE Power and Energy group. Power will be supplied via standard 3-prong outlets and USB ports, which will output standard 60H alternating current. With sufficient charge in the battery bank, the system can simultaneously power four laptops and four tablets. From 100% battery charge (without solar panels), the system can charge (from 0 to 100%) the average laptop 9 x, cellphone 30 x and tablet 18 x, on estimate. The electrical system was reviewed by Professor Philip Krein.
The structural design includes a commercially purchased recycled plastic picnic table, two 4” galvanized poles and solar panel mounts, custom-made concrete blocks (to stabilize the poles), and outlet bases. We are working with Facilities and Services (F&S) to ensure the structure is up to code. The system will also be grounded using two 8’ grounding rods.
The SPOT project is funded by the UIUC Student Sustainability Committee. The InSPIRE RSO is sponsored by Professor Eric Benson, College of Art and Design. The electrical design and construction of the solar energy system was done in the ECEB Open Lab, and concrete work for the structural design in Newmark lab. The location will likely be on the north quad, with approval from the F&S Architectural Committee, local facility managers near the proposed locations, and other relevant officials. Construction is expected early fall 2020.
The project team branch of the InSPIRE RSO currently consists of ten members from Grainger Engineering, ACES and other colleges. As of March 2020, most of the structural design was completed and the off-grid solar energy system tested outside for about one month.

Securing Flight’s Clean Future with Cryogenics and Superconductivity

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Professor Haran's research group

Professor Haran΄s research group. Joshua is fifth from left in the back row.

Joshua Feldman, a graduate student in Professor Kiruba Haran΄s research group, is currently working to solve a rather lofty problem… literally. They are addressing the uncertain outcome of airline travel in an envirocentric future by developing a superconducting motor with the help of cryogenics. The goal is to produce a fully superconducting motor with an output of roughly 2.5 MW.
The research is funded by the Cryogenic Hydrogen Energy Electric Transport Aircraft (CHEETA) NASA grant, a $6 million, three-year collaboration between the University of Illinois and several other research institutions, to design a fully electric concept airplane for commercial air travel and develop the technologies necessary for the plane΄s realization. Researchers comprise Boeing Research and Technology, General Electric Global Research, The Ohio State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Arkansas, the University of Dayton Research Institute and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Along with Haran΄s group, with its superconducting propulsion motors, each of the teams is responsible for a different component of the plane including aerodynamics, fuel storage, electronics and power systems.
“Rising greenhouse gas emissions are worrying, the rise and volatility of fuel prices threatens the global economy by making air travel less economical, and noise from jet engines irritates local communities. These problems point to electric propulsion, using alternative fuels, as our solution,” said Feldman in an interview with Cold Facts. The proposed alternative fuel? Liquid hydrogen.
Challenges include minimizing the high ac losses produced by the stationary high-temperature superconducting coils and heat losses from the motor spinning at 3000 to 4500 RPM—up to 3000 to 4000 Watts of heat. Joshua is focused on the latter.
Excerpted from an article in Cold Facts, vol 35, no 6: Read more about Joshua΄s contribution in “Hydrogen-Based Cooling System for a Fully Superconducting Machine” (Motor Design Operation and Control Projects)

Banerjee Receives NSF CAREER Award for Work Emulating a Biological Spine in Robots

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Illinois ECE Assistant Professor Arijit Banerjee recently won the NSF CAREER award for his work with bio-inspired design methods for distributed electromechanical actuators to emulate a biological spine. This prestigious award supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.
Banerjee΄s award-winning work focuses on creating a class of modular and distributed electromechanical actuators and developing a power network that will enable robots to be agile, efficient, and capable of reproducing biological motions that today are impossible.
“Our research envisions [advancing]… power networks and actuators in robots to converge with the exploding capability of artificial intelligence and autonomous control, saving human lives and enhancing national security,” said Banerjee. “The integrated education and outreach plan aims to ignite curiosity in students about electromechanics and power electronics—foundations of our modern civilization—by using robotics as the catalyst.”
Although state-of-the-art bio-inspired robots have achieved exquisite maneuvers, such systems have yet to closely replicate the grace, fluidity, and agility of their biological counterparts. Banjeree΄s work tackles a critical need to re-imagine these robots as a complex network of electromechanical actuators by emulating a biological spine.
A distributed actuator mimicking the spine mechanism will improve mobility, efficiency, and stability of robots in search, rescue, and recovery making them the first line of defense for disaster relief as well as surveillance reconnaissance, inspection, and exploration applications.
By building a hardware prototype of a synthetic spine, the project plans to construct demonstration kits using research results that connect math and theory to the craft of real-world systems such as robots and automated systems. The demo kit blueprint will be shared with K–12 educators to help them teach their STEM clubs.

Excerpted from an article by Joseph Park:

Read more in “A Distributed Spring-Aided Vertical Electromechanical Spine for Bio-Inspired Robots” by Bonhyun Ku (Advanced Research Projects)

Banerjee and Bose Empower/Recharge Educators During CISTEME365 Session on Power and Energy

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During the CISTEME365 Institute from July 22–August 3, 2019, Assistant Professors Subhonmesh Bose and Arijit Banerjee gave a session on power and energy to 13 educators participating in the institute. Part of the three-year NSF grant, Catalyzing Inclusive STEM Experiences All Year Round CISTEME365, their integrated

Bose presenting a demo to teachers

Subhonmesh Bose presents demo

Anita Alicea participating in demo

Anita Alicea, a STEM integration specialist at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy, Chicago

presentation walked through a history of power systems, the physics behind electromechanical energy conversion,

and shared research frontiers in power and energy. They included fun and exciting demos and a dialogue between the K–12 and higher education teachers on STEM pedagogy beneficial for all ages.
Bose discussed principles about the electric power grid, addressing algorithm and market-design questions that arise in integration of variable renewable and distributed energy resources in the grid. To achieve his goals, Bose utilizes optimization, control theory, microeconomics, and game theory tools. His current projects include optimization of dispatch with variable wind, designing meaningful prices for wholesale electricity markets under uncertainty, market design for multi-area power systems, and electrification of transportation.

Arigit Banergee presents demo during CISTEME365 session on Power adn Energy

Arijit Banerjee explains demo

Banerjee΄s research involves advancing energy conversion by functionally integrating power electronics, electromechanics, and control, especially via creating new energy-conversion architectures. Real-world applications include: renewable energy systems, robotics, system-level monitoring and diagnostics, and, like Bose, electric transportation systems. He plans to develop low-cost alternatives to his demos for teachers to implement in their classrooms.

Excerpted from “I-STEM Education Initiative” article by Elizabeth Innes

NASA Backs Development of Cryogenic Hydrogen System to Power All-Electric Aircraft – CHEETA

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NASA Backs Development of Cryogenic Hydrogen System to Power All-Electric Aircraft - CHEETA

Artist’s rendering of commercial transport aircraft concept utilizing CHEETA systems

University of Illinois has announced that NASA is underwriting a project to develop a cryogenic hydrogen fuel cell system for powering all-electric aircraft. Funded by a three-year, US$6 million contract, the Center for Cryogenic High-Efficiency Electrical Technologies for Aircraft (CHEETA) will investigate the technology needed to produce a practical all-electric design to replace conventional fossil fuel propulsion systems. Assistant Professor Phillip Ansell in the Aerospace Department is PI and Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Kiruba Haran is Co-PI.

Significant seed funding from the Grainger CEME supported Professor Haran’s vision for this high-risk cryogenic research. It is validated by CHEETA, a consortium of nine institutions that includes the Air Force Research Laboratory, Boeing Research and Technology, General Electric Global Research, Ohio State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Arkansas, the University of Dayton Research Institute, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“Essentially, the program focuses on the development of a fully electric aircraft platform that uses cryogenic liquid hydrogen as an energy storage method,” says Phillip Ansell. “The hydrogen chemical energy is converted to electrical energy through a series of fuel cells, which drive the ultra-efficient electric propulsion system. The low temperature requirements of the hydrogen system also provide opportunities to use superconducting, or lossless, energy transmission and high-power motor systems.”

NASA Backs Development of Cryogenic Hydrogen System to Power All-Electric Aircraft - CHEETA

Concept sketch of fully electric aircraft platform that uses cryogenic liquid hydrogen as an energy storage method

“It’s similar to how MRIs work, magnetic resonance imaging. However, these necessary electrical drivetrain systems do not yet exist, and the methods for integrating electrically driven propulsion technologies into an aircraft platform have not yet been effectively established. This program seeks to address this gap and make foundational contributions in technologies that will enable fully electric aircraft of the future.

“Advances in recent years on non-cryogenic machines and drives have brought electric propulsion of commercial regional jets closer to reality, but practical cryogenic systems remain the ‘holy grail’ for large aircraft because of their unmatched power density and efficiency,” says Professor Kiruba Haran. “The partnerships that have been established for this project position us well to address the significant technical hurdles that exist along this path.”
Excepted from article by David Szondy, University of Illinois.

Arijit Banerjee Wins the Ronald W. Pratt Teaching Award

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The Ronald W. Pratt Faculty Outstanding Teaching Award recognizes Banerjee’s sustained excellence in undergraduate teaching and his guidance of undergraduate students. Faculty are nominated for the award by current and former students. The department then collects letters of recommendation from other ECE professors and colleagues, as well as from former students who have since moved to graduate work or careers in industry.

Arijit Banerjee Wins the Ronald W. Pratt Teaching Award
Arijit’s response to receiving the award: “It is a great honor for me to get recognized by my students and colleagues. I am grateful to all my students, teaching assistants, and graders because learning and teaching is teamwork and everyone adds value to this process,” said Banerjee. “In particular, I am grateful to students who took or are taking ECE 464 (Power Electronics). Their motivation to enroll and show up to lectures starting at 8:30 on Monday mornings always inspires me.”