Research Directions

  • Resilient and fault tolerant power electronics systems
  • Fundamental circuits and systems techniques for increased efficiency and power density
  • Next-generation energy architectures for high impact applications

Research Highlights

Fundamental Techniques for Highly Available and Resilient Power Electronics Systems


The confluence of power electronics systems and next-generation electric networks has introduced a plurality of new challenges, particularly with respect to availability, reliability, and system security and safety. Switching power converters introduce new failure points in a power distribution network. Moreover, the interactions between converters and the propagation or cascading effect of faults through an electric network remain open research questions.

This project aims to develop a generalized methodology for enabling next-generation resilient and fault tolerant electric networks with high penetration of power electronics devices. The proposed approach is general in that it can be used to detect and identify arbitrary faults in components and sensors in a broad class of switching power converters. More importantly, the modeling and implementation of the approach is flexible for both the converter topology and faults of interest; that is, one would require minimal effort to reconfigure an existing implementation for a different converter topology or fault type. The proposed method can be integrated with the existing control system of the switching power converter, requiring no additional electrical or computation hardware. In essence, the method enables a layer of intelligence on top of existing hardware protection such as fuses and circuit breakers.

Additional References

DC Microgrids for Electrification in Emerging Regions

dc microgrid

There are currently 1.3 billion people in rural developing regions without access to electricity. This number is projected to increase despite increased grid-tied generation since there is still a significant power deficit in urban areas. Microgrids have been viewed as a viable option to provide electricity for rural areas where the cost of grid extension is prohibitive. In recent years, the falling cost of solar energy has sparked increasing interest in developing renewable methods for rural electrification. However, battery costs have not declined at the same rate as solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. Since the predominant residential usage is during night-time hours, the cost of stored electricity use is a key figure of merit. In this regard, dc microgrids have demonstrated promise as a viable method of enabling improved efficiency and scalability for off-grid systems.

In this project, we analyze and experimentally demonstrate a dc microgrid architecture that provides a scalable solution for rural electrification. We calculate the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of the described architecture based on BOM costs of the proposed system and field surveys carried out by research partners. The calculated LCOE of the dc microgrid is favorable in comparison to presently deployed solar microgrid systems and also with grid power rates on certain Hawaiian islands. Moreover, a hardware prototype setup demonstrates the stable steady state behavior and the perturbation response of the proposed architecture.

Additional References

Hardware-in-the-Loop for Power Electronics Systems


This work has been spun-off into Typhoon HIL.

In recent years, hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) testing for power electronics has shown significant promise to serve as a comprehensive rapid prototyping platform for advanced power electronics systems. HIL testing is a technique that replaces a physical model, such as an electric vehicle, with a mathematical representation that fully describes the important dynamics of the physical model. Hardware-in-the-loop enables the testing of closed-loop device-under-test controllers under realistic operating conditions without the need to interface with a high power system. In this way, a power electronics HIL environment provides a rapid prototyping platform for the design and testing of power electronics hardware, software, and firmware. HIL tools enable: (1) accelerated testing and validation; (2) reduced testing time needed in the lab; (3) simulation of all operating points and scenarios that are difficult or impossible to recreate with a real system; (4) fault injection capability; (5) real-time access to all signals that are difficult to measure in a real system.

In this project, we demonstrate a hardware-in-the-loop platform based on a real-time power electronics simulation for testing switching power converters. We designed and implemented a real-time simulation of various switching power converters and a test bench simulation that interfaces with a device-under-test controller. We demonstrate the rapid prototyping capability of the HIL platform under a variety of test cycles and fault conditions. Lastly, we validate the fidelity of the HIL emulation by comparing the real-time simulation with a hardware implementation of the switching power converter.

Additional References

last updated: July 2017