Electrical Energy Management

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Our research group is made up of around 6-7
young academics and we look at electrical power right from where it starts so you convert
it from whatever form it starts in whether it’s Solar, wind energy all the way through
to how it’s used and the idea is to trying to make the best use of what you have available.
In some circumstances that means you can do things that you never were able to do before
so in a field like Health it means that you can scavenge energy from body health for example
rather than rather than having battery slapped on your arm. In the very large scale it means
that you actually get more miles for your pound if you like so in your car it means
that rather than getting 60 miles to the gallon, we’re aiming at technologies that allow
you to get 70, 80, 90 miles to the gallon. This research like a lot of research requires
you to understand technologies across a broad range of disciplines. To give you an example
if you want to build an efficient motor, it’s not enough to understand the electrical system
behind electric machines, you’ve got to understand the mechanical systems, how do
I put this machine in a system, how does the heat get out of the machine into the world
because that’s what defines how powerful a machine can be. So it’s really the understanding
the very specific technology but in a really broad context. We might want to build an electric
machine to go in a hybrid car for example so we’re not building a pretend one, we’re
not building a small scale one, we’re building a full scale electric machine to go in a real
hybrid car for prototype for a company. But that’s not what interests us as academics,
what interests us as academics is how you wind the coil so they release minimum amount
of heat? how do you arrange the magnetics so they’re most efficiently arranged?
It’s all about energy efficiency so it’s really getting to the stage where you use
less energy to do the things we want to do and it’s part of a food chain, we’re not
involved in the sourcing of the energy but what we’re interested is how do we get that
for example consider wind energy conversion, you have a variable speed rotating shaft with
a big turbine on it, how do you get from there through to the power conversion system through
the energy storage system, how do you manipulate that energy, how do you use that for the purpose
you want to do it whether is to drive the car whether is to run a household appliance
or is to improve the quality of your life. For me that’s where the real interest lies
in doing research in this area is that there is not one single decision that you can just
work towards, you can’t say right I’ve just got to make the system lighter because
you could argue by making it lighter, I might make it more voluminous, I might make it larger
and that causes somebody else a problem or if I make it lighter, it might give off more
electromagnetic radiation and that causes someone else a problem so they’ll have to
put shielding on their things which makes the whole thing heavier. There is a huge kind
of circular set of arguments that you have to navigate before deciding whether something
you’ve done actually has any benefit or not.
I really like the idea of a mechanical manifestation of a research, you can actually see something
happening rather than a computer simulation and that’s really been the basis of it,
it’s not only analysing things, it’s making them and in the making of them, you actually
learn more things like electromagnetic interference when you assemble lots of power semiconductors
together, it’s a major problem and you can really learn that sort of things by actually
making things. I guess what really motivates me is getting
down into the details, trying to understand effects that hitherto people haven’t really
looked into. For example at the moment we’re looking at a particular effect where as you
make machines more compact and operate at higher speed, higher frequencies you get additional
loss effects with the wiring of those machines. To really understand that you need to propose
new analytical methods, you need to do alternative numerical analysis, you’ve got to couple
the understanding of the source of the loss with the thermal behaviour of the device with
the heating end of the device. It can become quite difficult but challenging problem to
solve but the outcome will be a far better product or would be like a far better system
at the end.

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