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3. Campus Projects to Advocate for STEM Education

Engineering Research Center for Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems (POETS)

National Science Foundation Award # 1449548
Andrew Alleyne, Kenneth Goodson, Sonya Teresa Smith, Homer Mantooth, Paul Braun
Developmental of Mechanical Science & Engineering
Project Dates: August 1, 2015–July 31, 2020 (Estimated)

Nearly all modern electronic systems are hitting a power density wall where further improvements in power density pose significant challenges. The NSF Engineering Research Center for Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems (POETS), aims to enhance or increase the electric power density available in tightly constrained mobile environments by changing the design. The management of high-density electrical and thermal power flows is a safety-critical societal need as recent electrical vehicles and aircraft battery fires illustrate. Engineering education conducted in silos limits systems-level approaches to design and operation. POETS will create the human capital that is explicitly trained to think, communicate, and innovate across the boundaries of technical disciplines. The Engineering Research Center (ERC) will institute curricular reform to train across disciplines using a systems perspective. It will develop pedagogical tools that allow greater stems-level understanding and disseminate these throughout the undergraduate curriculum. POETS will target undergraduate curriculum modifications aimed at early retention and couple it with undergraduate research and K-12 teacher activities. POETS' research will directly benefit its industry stakeholders comprised of power electronics Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and Small to Medium sized businesses in the OEM supply chain. An Industry/Practitioner Advisory Board will help direct efforts towards ready recipients of POETS research developments. POETS will harness the outputs of the ecosystem and drive research across the "valley of death" into commercialization.

POETS uses system level analysis tools to identify barriers to increased power density. Design tools will be used to create optimal system-level and subsystem-level designs. Novel algorithm tools will address the multi-physics nature of the integrated electro-thermal problem via structural optimization. Once barriers are identified, POETS will cultivate enabling technologies to overcome them. The operation of these systems necessitates development of heterogeneous decision tools that exploit multiple time scale hierarchies and are not suitable for real-time use. Implementation of these management approaches requires new 3D power electronics architectures that surpass current 2D designs. The thermal management will be tightly coupled with new 3D electronic systems designs using topology optimization for power electronics, storage, etc. The new designs will tightly interweave elements such as solid state thermal switches and modular multi-length scale elements; i.e. spreaders, storage units, phase change and mass flow system interacting with convection units. Fundamental research advances will support development of the 3D component technologies. New materials systems will be developed by manipulating nanostructures to provide tunable directionality for in plane and out-of-plane thermal power flows. These will be coupled with micro- and nano-scale thermal routing based on new conduction/convection systems. Buffers made from phase change material will be integrated into these systems to augment classes of autonomic materials with directed power flow actuation. Novel tested systems will integrate the system knowledge enabling technologies and fundamental breakthrough into modular demonstrations.