Center for Research in Electronics & Aerospace Technology


Task 1: Design of Distributed, Fault-Tolerant, and Modular Power System

Complete a conceptual design of a distributed, fault-tolerant, and modular power system that takes into consideration the components’ dominant mode of failure, the power systems network architecture, and the number and location of redundant components. The design shall include automated, failure-effect analyses that provide both transient and steady-state solutions, for both repairable and non-repairable networks.  The design shall provide analyses yielding information regarding the probability, frequency, and mean duration of network failure.  The potential for terrorist acts against the infrastructure shall also be considered in the design studies.  The design shall include intelligent, autonomous, distributed, and digitally controlled devices, such as those employed in space power systems.  In order to address the aging and shrinking current workforce in electric power, this task shall also focus on the development of a new, highly-educated workforce that will be able to use these new technologies.

Work under this task has been divided into three subtasks: 1) Knowledge capture for the design and operation of distributed, fault-tolerant, and modular power systems; 2) Use an educational model to educate professionals to be able to effectively apply these technologies to power systems; and 3) Develop the linking between terrestrial systems (US industries and electrical distribution systems) and their space counterparts.

1.1 Knowledge Capture for Design and Operation of Distributed, Fault-Tolerant, and Modular Power Systems

For space applications, it is necessary to develop completely automated processes for maintaining the integrity of power systems on long voyages from earth. The principles behind accomplishing this have many potential applications for terrestrial systems and this task is to capture an appropriate level of knowledge capture throughout the design process to allow the development of a suitable expert system to make use of that knowledge to maintain the system at an adequate level of performance.  This task can be further divided into two subtasks: 1) Thoroughly document (knowledge capture) the design of an actual Direct Current (DC) to DC converter and 2) Specify the design of an expert system to take the knowledge capture from the above that will allow power systems to be self analyzing and to be self healing.

1.1.1 Document (Knowledge Capture) Design of DC-DC Converter

The focus of this activity is the design of a digitally reconfigurable power converter that can be used as a building block for many different power units. It is expected that to complete this subtask, a thorough understanding must be achieved of the total control and protection requirements of operational, high-performance power converters and how digital control technology can fill those needs. The preliminary communication requirements for performance, health, and fault monitoring of converter modules shall be determined and a candidate technology selected. This phase shall also include an activity focused on learning modern Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software and deciding how best to integrate it into the project’s design activities.  Modeling and circuit simulation efforts shall also be conducted to support conversion of the primary and secondary control functions of DC-DC Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) converters from analog control technology to digital control. The completion of this subtask will lead to the design, construction, and testing of a prototype, digitally-controlled, DC-DC converter.  Evaluation of which digital communication methodology best satisfies the new Power Management And Distribution (PMAD) system’s performance objectives shall also be conducted.

A process for the purpose of supporting knowledge capture in an integrated design environment shall be incorporated in the development of the system. This process shall create a database and an adaptive/learning expert system that can be used to troubleshoot problems onboard spacecraft.

Although a design specification for the DC to DC converter will be completed for a space application, the goal here is not to design something, but rather, complete the project learning process of how to capture the level of knowledge that will effectively allow the development of a knowledge capturing process to be used in designing new systems, or analyzing existing ones, to create a database architecture for the expert system.  The entire process shall follow a Rules-Driven Product Management (RPM) environment.

1.1.2 Specify Design of Expert System

T he completion of such an expert system as is described above is beyond the scope of time and funds available for this project.  Therefore, the goal of this subtask is to begin the process of developing specifications of the expert system. Regular meetings of the principals involved to specify the elements of the system should be held throughout the project duration.

1.2 Educate Professionals to be able to effectively apply these technologies to power systems

The aging and shrinking of the current electric power workforce and the requirement to use new, more sophisticated skills to be able to work with ever changing and more complicated technologies are two major drivers that make education of the next generation of workers in the power field very important. New engineers will need to be recruited into a field, seen by many, to be uninteresting.  The development of teaching modules and processes to educate new engineers is therefore necessary to ensure they have the skills to be successful.  The performer shall identify new modules to be developed that will develop and enhance the student’s skills to being able to effectively work in a modern knowledge capturing integrated design environment. Once the modules are identified, a selected set of them shall be designed and developed. A proposal for their implementation on a trial basis shall be prepared and reviewed by the government as a deliverable for this subtask.

1.3 Develop Linking Between Terrestrial Systems (US Industries and Electrical Distribution Systems) and Their Space Counterparts -Distributed, Fault–Tolerant, and Modular Space Power System

Identify all of the relevant areas of space systems and their analogous terrestrial system areas. Develop appropriate linking strategies between each space and terrestrial system. Develop a plan for the development of strategies applying what has been learned about space systems and how to apply them to terrestrial systems.  A partial set of areas to be addressed may include the following:

1. Reliable Power Distribution Topologies
2. Open Power System Architecture Specifications
3. Health Monitoring and Fault Identification/Accommodation
4. Real-time Power System Optimization
5. Modular Power Conversion
6. Advanced Hardware Design
7. Distributed Control System
8. Embedded Machine Intelligence

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