Center for Advanced Power Systems building tools for the future of energy


CAPS is typically home to 50 FAMU-FSU College of Engineering graduate students and 30 undergraduate students each year.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Pamidi, who is also chair of the electrical and computer engineering department at FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. “Businesses need help, and we have the expertise to help them while training the future workforce.”

This future workforce is formed by 10 FAMU-FSU College of Engineering tenured faculty and 25 full-time researchers, many of whom also hold positions at the college. They manage a large number of projects that cover the field of energy engineering.

Here are some examples of current CAPS projects:

Reduce risks for new electronic equipment

You never really know what you’ll encounter when adding a new component to a complex power system, said CAPS senior research faculty member Michael “Mischa” Steurer.

“We often see unexpected results when testing prototypes,” he said. “Our goal is to ensure that these unexpected results do not lead to problems.”

Steurer and his team participated in the development of a tool allowing engineers to create a simulation of complex electrical systems. They can then add to this simulation the actual component they want to incorporate into the system and see how everything reacts. This hardware-in-the-loop simulation technique allows engineers to test new equipment much earlier in the design process, before building the rest of the system or destroying the guts of an existing system. This reduces the costs and risks associated with integrating new technologies into the power grids of the future.

Power and energy systems need to become more agile to handle new and emerging applications, such as microgrids that use renewable energy or electric cars, ships and planes, where electrical loads can change rapidly, Steurer said.

“Power systems need to handle dynamic loads better,” he said. “A microgrid that draws power from solar, for example, will have to deal with weather conditions that can change from moment to moment. We help design and test the systems to meet these needs.

Developing superconducting power devices to move energy more efficiently

Typical electrical cables, which often use copper or aluminum to conduct current, lose energy due to electrical resistance. This is not the case with superconductors.

These engineering marvels have no resistance to electric current and offer improvements in applications such as electrical machines, quantum computers, etc.

Pamidi’s research group develops superconducting power systems, including in applications such as electric aircraft and ships.

The benefits of an electric plane go beyond adding another option to power planes. Superconducting devices would enable lighter and more efficient aircraft, opening up a host of possibilities for sustainable travel with minimal environmental impacts.

Aircraft using electricity would not have the emissions and noise generated by conventional aircraft, burdens that fall primarily on neighborhoods around airports. Because they could accelerate quickly, aircraft using electricity could use shorter runways for landing and takeoff, widening where they could operate.

Superconductors could help develop all-electric ships. An important consideration for ships is how far they can travel before needing to refuel. Electric vessels can significantly expand this range.

“Electric propulsion gives ships or planes enhanced capabilities, but we need to develop the technology to make these systems work on a large scale,” Pamidi said. “Superconducting cables allow large amounts of electricity to be moved between sources and loads without taking up too much space or becoming too heavy.”

Modernize the electricity network

FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Professor Hui “Helen” Li stands in the solar farm west of Tallahassee International Airport. (FAMU-FSU College of Engineers/Mark Wallheiser)

The US electric grid is evolving to handle more energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind, but these sources cannot be turned on all the time.

Professor Helen Li is helping with this transition, with a $3.8 million grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Solar Energy Technologies and a $1.8 million investment from FSU and other partners. Working with colleagues from the City of Tallahassee, Northeastern University, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Siemens, the researchers are developing technology that could help make renewable energy solutions more feasible and thus increase their adoption. The team is developing converters that are smaller and lighter than existing technology and can operate at higher voltage, which is crucial for use in the power grid.

They also give networks the ability to quickly and reliably switch between being connected within the larger power system and a stand-alone system. A so-called “micro-grid” allows cities to be more resilient to outside power supply disruptions. In the event of a hurricane bringing down power lines, for example, the micro-grid could provide power when the larger grid is down.

The controls developed by Li and his team incorporate artificial intelligence, which helps power plant managers make efficient use of energy captured from renewable sources. For example, AI can tell managers whether energy from solar panels should be used immediately or stored for later use, when the sun is down or the wind is not blowing. The algorithm behind this decision will consider how much energy users need and when it makes financial sense to sell it back to the grid. It also considers how to use storage devices, such as batteries, so they last longer.

It’s all part of creating a more adaptable and sustainable network.

“The power grids of the future will need to be designed to handle more renewable energy sources,” Li said. “The work we do at CAPS is contributing to this transition. »

Improving autonomous vehicle technology

Humans make mistakes. Human drivers do a lot. Autonomous vehicle technology is a tool that could help drivers reduce the likelihood and impact of errors.

Assistant Professor Olugbenga Moses Anubi is helping to develop the next generation of autonomous vehicle technology.

FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Assistant Professor Olugbenga Moses Anubi in front of the Center for Advanced Power Systems.  (Bruce Palmer/FSU Photography Services)
FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Assistant Professor Olugbenga Moses Anubi in front of the Center for Advanced Power Systems. (Bruce Palmer/FSU Photography Services)

There is a range of driverless technologies. Some of them, like lane assist or automatic braking, are standard in new cars. Other technologies, such as a fully autonomous car, are still under development. The work also leads to improvements for things like electrical systems or pipelines.

In Anubi’s Resilient and Autonomous Systems Lab, researchers develop algorithms that autonomous systems can use to navigate a complex environment. These algorithms are deterministic, which means that particular inputs will lead to the same decision every time. Researchers simulate scenarios over and over again when building these algorithms, giving them a better chance of detecting crashes before they happen.

“In our lab, we don’t see a future where every vehicle on the road is fully autonomous,” Anubi said. “People are still going to ride bikes, aren’t they? These will not be independent. There are going to be all kinds of vehicles on the road. We don’t take humans out of the loop. We make autonomy with humans, not autonomy in spite of humans.

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