Research Areas

The research program at the USU Power Electronics Lab spans a wide range of applications and power levels for high efficiency, high power density, DC-DC, DC-AC, and AC-DC power conversion. A common program emphasis is placed on system and converter level modeling and control, application of adaptive digital control techniques to improve efficiency, performance and reliability over a wide range of operating conditions, control of distributed, modular power converter systems and integrated power management, including custom integrated circuit (IC) design. Projects in the lab are sponsored by both industry and government agencies and include collaborative interdisciplinary programs with academic and industry partners. Additional information can be found on primary research application areas below.

  • There are applications of Power Electronics that breach over into other fields of technology.  The overall purpose of this area of research is to expand the frontiers of current technology and science by researching and developing new technologies and ideas.  When working with the unknown, many challenges can arise.  Despite the challenges, UPEL is partnered with other researchers and organizations in order to make a difference in society by discovering new breakthroughs in technology.

  • This research area includes a wide range of topics with the common goal of improving energy efficiency in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. Current research projects include power converter design for and power management control of computing systems (processor, board, rack and cabinet level power), energy efficient lighting systems (discharge lamps and LEDs), AC-DC power conversion and DC distribution, integration of renewable energy and backup power sources, and low power circuit design and energy harvesting for wireless sensors and smart building control systems. An example of an early adopter of new technologies in the building systems area is data centers, where processing capability is directly driven by electricity cost and availability. We are performing research in the area of DC distribution for improved system efficiency and integration with backup and renewable power, and design of very high step-down DC-DC power converters with high efficiency over a wide range of load conditions to interface between a high voltage bus and low voltage computing board level requirements.

  • With recent advances and interest in renewable energy sources and energy storage, and a growing demand for higher system efficiency, reliability, and scalability, there is a need to develop more intelligent power conversion systems with bi-directional power flow and multi-functional capability. In such systems, local areas become "micro-grids," capable of autonomous operation as well as importing or exporting energy to an external grid, providing significant opportunity of improved system operation and reliability, while maintaining stable operation over a wide range of conditions.  Currently we are looking into very high efficiency, high power density, scalable bi-directional power converters that can be used as intelligent interfaces to optimize operation between renewable energy sources, energy storage, AC and DC grids, and a wide range of loads. We are also working on collaborative programs that consider interaction between the converters and the power system and overall system stability and efficiency optimization.

  • Military systems have for some time been moving towards "more-electric" aircraft, ships and vehicles, driven by requirements for improved energy efficiency, reduced weight, and high performance electronic loads. We have active research programs supporting design of very high power density bi-directional DC-DC, DC-AC and AC-DC converters with high efficiency over a wide range of operating conditions, controllable output impedance, and fast response time. The application is for integration of distributed energy storage in AC and DC power distribution systems, support of pulsed power loads, and bus disturbance rejection and stability control. Our current programs are supported by the Navy in collaboration with industry partners. 

  • The transportation sector accounts for approximately 40% of U.S. energy use and is a major contributor to pollution, particularly in urban areas. Electric drive technologies offer a path towards zero "tail-pipe" emissions and significant improvements in overall efficiency. However, major challenges still exist that have limited market penetration of electric drive systems in transportation to less than a few percent. We are pursuing research in modeling, design and control of power converters associated with the electric drivetrain in order to improve vehicle performance, range, and lifetime and reduce cost and weight.

  • The transmission of electric power without the use of expensive wires has long been a topic of interest since it was first demonstrated by Nikola Tesla in 1891. With recent innovations in battery technology and electric vehicles, applications for wireless power transfer are more practical. We are interested in more than just powering vehicles, as wireless power transfer has many exciting applications from battery-less sensors to lightweight robotics. With an understanding of electromagnetic resonance and innovative research partners, UPEL is pushing the envelope with what the world thought was possible.

Research Sponsors and Collaborators