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SPARK Lab within PEIK Celebrates Evan Jones, Ph.D. Graduate DoEd GAANN Fellow, and Steven Poore, Incoming Ph.D. NSF GR Fellow

May 12, 2023

This May is an emotional time of generational student transition for the SPARK Lab. The research group is affiliated with the Power and Energy Institute of Kentucky (PEIK) and operates within the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department at the University of Kentucky (UK) Stanley and Karen Pigman College of Engineering.

Evan S. Jones, who just graduated with a Ph. D., is the last of the SPARK students to have been at UK in the fall of 2015, when the group was established. At the time, Evan was just an undergraduate freshman and since then he graduated in 2019 with two BS degrees in Electrical and in Computer Engineering, respectively, and continued directly for Ph. D. through the University Scholars Program (USP) that integrates undergraduate and graduate studies. Evan is joining a new division of the well-established EPE advanced engineering and consulting national firm specializing in electric power systems. He is looking forward to applying his expertise on smart buildings and grids and electric power distributions systems, developed as part of the UK Ph. D. program. As an undergrad, Evan was an engineering intern with East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC). As a Ph. D. student, Evan was the recipient of a Department of Education GAANN fellowship. In the photo, Evan, who is the third from the left, wears the Ph. D. graduation regalia. 

Steven Poore, who has just graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering, is dressed in the specific ceremonial gown and cap to the left of Evan. As an undergrad student, Steven was a co-op with Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities (LG&E and KU), part of the PPL companies, and also completed an NSF REU at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. Earlier this spring, Steven received an NSF GR Fellowship, and as an USP student, will continue directly for Ph. D. studies at UK in the SPARK Lab. 

Also featured in the photo, to left and right side, are SPARK Lab student colleagues Donovin D. Lewis and Rosemary E. Alden. They are also NSF GR Fellows and have now completed their second year of the Ph. D. program. All four students grew up in Kentucky, were enrolled as USP at UK, worked as undergrad RAs in the SPARK Lab and have been continuously advised by Dr. Dan M. Ionel. As undergrads, all were recipients of the national IEEE PES Scholarship Plus, three were L. Stanley Pigman scholars, and Donovin was the recipient of the William C. Parker scholarship.

The students collaborated and contributed to advanced research projects sponsored by DOE, NSF, NASA, and EPRI and directly by industry and major utilities: TVA, LG&E and KU, and PPL. Within the SPARK Lab, they work as part of a group of about ten national and international researchers, mostly Ph.D. students. A wider SPARK group photo was included earlier in the year in the PEIK news covering the ICRERA international conference paper awards. Short bios of the students are available from the SPARK website. All students aspire to become technical experts in electric power components and systems. Their efforts and progress are well on track, as demonstrated by the many achievements, the most important of which have been featured in the PEIK website news and documented in the many publications posted on the SPARK website.

Fifteen postdocs, Ph. D., and MS students have already completed and graduated from the SPARK Lab, which became an academic family with members or active close collaborators from the US and internationally from all continents, except Antarctica. The SPARK Lab was established at UK by Dr. Dan M. Ionel, upon his appointment in 2015 as ECE Professor and inaugural L. Stanley Pigman Chair in Power.

PEIK Reports on Joint Research with PPL Corporation

April 7, 2023

The Power and Energy Institute of Kentucky (PEIK) at University of Kentucky (UK) continues collaboration on topics of electric power systems with researchers from the PPL Corporation’s family of companies, including the regional Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities (LG&E and KU). New concepts, methods, and results have been communicated at technical conferences and published in journals. Example papers available as open access from the publishers, as well as from the PEIK and SPARK websites at UK, include:

  • Gong, H., Alden, R. E., Patrick, A., and Ionel, D. M., “Forecast of Community Total Electric Load and HVAC Component Disaggregation through a New LSTM-Based Method,” Energies, Vol. 15, No. 9, 2974, doi: 10.3390/en15092974, 17p (2022) pdf
  • Jones, E. S., Jewell, N., Liao, Y., and Ionel, D. M., "Optimal Capacitor Placement and Rating for Large-Scale Utility Power Distribution Systems Employing Load-Tap-Changing Transformer Control," IEEE Access, Vol.11, doi: 10.1109/ACCESS.2023.3244572, pp. 19324-19338 (2023) pdf
  • Lewis, D. D., Patrick, A., Jones, E. S., Alden, R. E., Hadi, A., McCulloch, M. D., and Ionel, D. M., "Decarbonization Analysis for Thermal Generation and Regionally Integrated Large-Scale Renewables Based on Minutely Optimal Dispatch with a Kentucky Case Study," Energies, Vol. 16, No. 4, 1999, doi:10.3390/en16041999, 23p (2023) pdf

The photo was taken during a break at the last edition of the IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting and features some of the researchers and paper authors. From left to right: Evan S. Jones, PhD student and GAANN DoEd Fellow; Dan M. Ionel, ECE Professor, L. Stanley Pigman Chair in Power and PEIK Director; Donovin Lewis and Rosemary Alden, PhD students and NSF GR Fellows; Claire Halloran, DPhil student and Rhodes Scholar at University of Oxford and visitor to University of Kentucky; Steven Poore, USP and NSF REU student; Aron Patrick, Director of Research and Development at PPL Corporation, and Oluwaseun Akeyo, former PhD student with PEIK at UK and now a Senior Engineer with Sargent & Lundy.

PEIK Continues Successful Collaboration on Teaching with Electric Power Utilities

April 3, 2023

During the academic spring break, the University of Kentucky (UK) students enrolled in the Efficient and Renewable Power Systems Operations class have completed the daily field tours of electric power utility sites. At the E. W. Brown solar PV farm and energy storage experimental facility, the UK group was hosted by researchers from the PPL Corporation with Aron Patrick, Director of Research and Development, featured on the far right of the photo. Also included are part of the group of UK students and, to the far left, the course instructor Dan M. Ionel, ECE Professor and L. Stanley Pigman Chair in Power and PEIK Director.

The UK group visited the state-of-the-art transmission and controls centers in Simpsonville, KY and regional transmission and distribution substations of the Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities (LG&E and KU), part of the PPL Corporation family of companies. At the LG&E and KU E. W. Brown station the natural gas, hydro, and coal power plants, together with the carbon capturing experimental facility were toured. The class greatly benefited from explanations and discussions directly in the field with subject matter experts.

The practical aspects complemented very well the theoretical class lectures held on campus during the first part of the semester. The continued successful collaboration between utilities and PEIK provides students with an opportunity to strongly link academic teachings with industrial practice and furthers the development of the next generation of power systems engineers.

PEIK Faculty and Students Exhibit and Discuss on DOE Sponsored Projects at the 2023 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, DC

March 31, 2023

Power and Energy Institute of Kentucky (PEIK) faculty and students from the College of Engineering at the University of Kentucky (UK), attended in-person at this year’s ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, DC. The US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program focuses on investing in high-potential, high-impact energy technologies in key areas to develop the commercial potential of innovative energy solutions. The ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit is an annual conference and technology showcase featuring some of the technological advancements resulting from sponsored projects and seminars/keynotes on cutting-edge developments with mixed government and industrial perspectives.

Dr. Jiangbiao He, ECE Assistant Professor and L. Stanley Pigman Fellowship faculty, exhibited together with General Electric (GE) Vernova, GE’s energy division, on their current ARPA-E collaborative project “Ultra-high-Performance nano-Liquid Insulation for upgrading Large Power Transformers (UPLIFT)”. The research seeks to substantially the service lifetime of large power transformers (LPT) based on a new innovative long-term stable nanofluid dielectric. Dr. He together with his PhD students focus their research project contributions on the lifetime prediction and multi-physics modeling of LPTs.

Dr. Dan Ionel, ECE Professor and L. Stanley Pigman Chair in Power, PEIK Director also participated in the conference and exhibition, discussing ongoing Department of Energy (DOE) sponsored projects at UK on smart buildings and grids, and electric vehicles. Two of his Ph.D. students, National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellows, Rosemary Alden and Donovin Lewis, who attended the summit as part of the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit special student program are featured in the photo to the leftmost edge, bottom and top respectively. 

The SPARK Lab within PEIK Expands the Research with the QM Power Company on Innovative Electric Machines

February 15, 2023

The SPARK Laboratory, which is affiliated with the Power and Energy Institute of Kentucky (PEIK) and operates within the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department at the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Engineering, has renewed and expanded its collaboration with the QM Power, Inc, a start-up company. The directly sponsored project at UK studies new concepts based on the company proprietary technology, as exemplified in the figure, and develops specific advanced analysis and large-scale computationally intelligent optimization methods. At UK, Dr. Dan M. Ionel, ECE Professor and L. Stanley Pigman Chair in Power, Director of the SPARK Lab and of the PEIK Institute, serves as the PI. 

SPARK and QM Power have also collaborated on another multi-year research project supported by the Department of Energy (DOE) for the development of a machine for electric vehicles with a record-high specific power of 50kW per liter. Successful progress has been already reported at the IEEE Energy Conversion Congress and Exhibition, which is the largest joint technical event of the IEEE Power Electronics and Industry Applications Societies. More results, including motor and drive prototype laboratory tests, will be available later this year. 

Last fall, a joint team of researchers has presented and published at the ICRERA International Conference on Renewable Energy Research and Applications a paper on a new concept for a multi-MW direct drive wind generator. The paper entitled "Design Optimization of a Direct-drive Wind Generator with Non-rare-earth PM Flux Intensifying Stator and Reluctance Rotor" received an IEEE best paper award and the authors' manuscript version is available from the SPARK Lab website. The group of authors included from SPARK at UK, Ph.D. students: Ali Mohammadi, Oluwaseun Badewa, and Yaser Chulaee, all advised by Dr. Ionel, and from QM Power, Drs. Somasundaram Essakiappan and Madhav Manjrekar. 

SPARK and PEIK Researchers Receive Paper Awards at the ICRERA International Conference on Renewable Energy Research and Applications

January 9, 2023

Two papers authored by SPARK Lab and Power and Energy Institute of Kentucky (PEIK) researchers from University of Kentucky (UK) were awarded at the last annual edition of the International Conference on Renewable Energy Research and Applications (ICRERA). The event was held in a hybrid format, in-person in Istanbul, Turkey and online via web conference. Recent editions of the conference took place in Glasgow, Scotland; Brasov, Romania; San Diego, California; and Birmingham, England.

A paper on innovative concepts for direct-drive wind turbine generators, which is the result of a collaboration sponsored directly by the QM Power, Inc. company, received a best paper award. Another paper on digital twins for residential loads, based on research sponsored through a project grant and student fellowships by the National Science Foundation (NSF), was recognized as an outstanding young researcher work through an encouragement award. The authors’ versions of the two paper manuscripts are available from the SPARK Lab website:

  • Mohammadi, A., Badewa, O. A., Chulaee, Y., Ionel, D. M., Essakiappan, S., and Manjrekar, M., "Direct-Drive Wind Generator Concept with Non-Rare-Earth PM Flux Intensifying Stator and Reluctance Outer Rotor", Proceedings, IEEE ICRERA, Istanbul, TR, doi: 10.1109/ICRERA55966.2022.9922808, pp. 582-587 (Sep 2022) pdf
  • Poore, S. B., Alden, R. E., Gong, H., and Ionel, D. M., “Multi-Physics and Artificial Intelligence Models for Digital Twin Implementations of Residential Electric Loads”, Proceedings, IEEE ICRERA, Istanbul, TR, doi: 10.1109/ICRERA55966.2022.9922831, pp. 576-581 (Sep 2022) pdf

Authors of the papers are featured in the photo, taken in the new facilities of the Grehan Building at UK, together with colleagues from the SPARK Lab. From left to right: Charles Skean, Yaser Chulaee, Donovin Lewis, Oluwaseun Badewa, Dan M. Ionel, Rosemary E. Alden, Ali Mohammadi, Steven Poore, Matin Vatani, and Evan S. Jones. Short bios are available from the website of the SPARK Lab, which is directed by Professor Dan M. Ionel, PEIK Director and L. Stanley Pigman Chair in Power.

PEIK Researchers at UK Successfully Report and the First Review Meeting of the NASA ULI Project IZEA

January 6, 2023

The research of the NASA University Leadership Initiative (ULI) project IZEA is focused on hybrid hydrogen-electric power airplanes that combine fuel cell technology to lower emissions. The project started in 2022, after a very competitive national selection competition, and includes, alongside the University of Kentucky (UK) research team, other multi-disciplinary engineering groups from Florida State University, which serves as the lead organization, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, University of New York at Buffalo, and Georgia Tech. The industrial partners include Raytheon, Boeing, Advanced Magnet Lab, and QM Power companies.

In December, the large collaborative team held a first major review meeting, which has been attended by NASA technical experts and managers, and by national and international scientific reviewers. The meeting was held in hybrid format, in person on the Florida State University campus in Tallahassee, FL and online. Technical presentations were followed by discussions, concluding on the very successful research progress.

The faculty-led team at UK includes Ph.D. students researching innovative concepts of electrical machines with ultra-high specific power in axial and radial topologies, stator dual-excited motors with reluctance rotors, special permanent magnet rotors and composite stator designs. The team also studies the integration of power electronic drives, means of significantly improving fault tolerance and reliability and new digital twins for condition monitoring. Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and PEIK faculty, Dr. Jiangbiao He, Assistant Professor and L. Stanley Pigman Power Fellowship, and Dr. Dan M. Ionel, PEIK Director, Professor and L. Stanley Pigman Chair in Power, serve as PI and Co-PI, respectively.