Heat is the enemy for people designing cars, construction machinery, aircraft and mobile electronics. When electrical systems do more work, they get hotter. When they get too hot, they operate inefficiently, fail or even melt.
Andrew Alleyne, the Ralph and Catherine Fisher Professor in Illinois’ department of mechanical science and engineering, will lead P.O.E.T.S.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
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A new, $18.5 million Engineering Research Center led by the U. of I. is out to pack more power into less space for electrical systems. The center is funded by the National Science Foundation.
Called P.O.E.T.S., the Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems center will attack as a single system the thermal and electrical challenges surrounding mobile electronics and vehicle design. Partners from around the world will build new technologies like three-dimensional thermal circuitry for cooling, next-generation power converters and algorithms for coordinating the technologies automatically. They will look at those technologies from the microchip level all the way up to an entire vehicle.
“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 Andrew Alleyne, the Ralph and Catherine Fisher Professor in Illinois’ department of mechanical science and engineering. Alleyne will lead P.O.E.T.S.
“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.”
More than a dozen companies across the United States will also take part, testing the ideas and hiring students trained through P.O.E.T.S. The center also will engage with school districts to transition the breakthrough interdisciplinary STEM concepts to K-12 classrooms and inspire young people to pursue careers in these fields.
“As part of the Caterpillar team, it’s a privilege to work on electric drives as part of my day job and also serve on the Industrial Advisory Board for the P.O.E.T.S. project,” said Bryan Lammers, a technical manager who also leads heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar’s involvement with the program.
“This is an opportunity to help grow world-class engineers in our own backyard, and drive collective innovation through a valuable federal and academic partnership. We look forward to sharing industry knowledge with these great researchers to help explain how these technologies could be most useful.”
The National Science Foundation began supporting Engineering Research Centers like P.O.E.T.S. in 1985, to create and sustain integrated interdisciplinary research environments that advance fundamental engineering knowledge, enable technology and engineered systems, and prepare U.S. engineering graduates for success in the global economy. Academe and industry are joined in partnership through the ERC to achieve these goals.
“In 1989, the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory at Illinois was launched thanks to support from the NSF Engineering Research Center program. It continues to thrive today, and still conducts more than $7.5 million in research per year,” said Provost Ilesanmi Adesida. “The massive impact of the NSF program and the centers it creates are felt by every partner, but, more importantly, they’re felt by the entire world.”