Graduate students win best paper awards at IEEE COMPEL

ECE News

11/3/2017 2:06:49 PM

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ECE ILLINOIS graduate students Nathan Charles Brooks and Zichao Ye won best paper awards at the IEEE Workshop on Control and Modeling for Power Electronics (COMPEL). Held at Stanford University in 2017, IEEE COMPEL conference is a four-day program consisting of keynote speeches, workshops, and lectures with 198 students in attendance.


The best paper awards honored Brooks' paper "Control Design of an Active Power Pulsation Buffer Using an Equivalent Series-Resonant Impedance Model" and Ye's "Investigation of Capacitor Voltage Balancing in Practical Implementation of Flying Capacitor Multilevel Converters." Both are advised by Associate Professor Robert Pilawa-Podgurski, Helm Fellow in Electrical and Computer Engineering, who is also affiliated with the Coordinated Science Lab.


Nathan Charles Brooks
Nathan Charles Brooks
Brooks graduated from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 2016 and is now in his second year at Illinois pursuing a PhD in electrical engineering. From a young age, Brooks enjoyed math and science and aspired to become an engineer so that he could see the real application and impact of his work on real-world problems.

He became interested in the research aspect of power electronics as he saw it as an “opportunity to learn about many different things” and that he would not be “too focused on a particular area,” noting the constant possibility to learn new material. 

Although many applications are in DC, the grid is primarily AC. Thus, the conversion between AC and DC works with high powers. Brooks’ goal for his research was to make the electric converters between AC and DC more efficient and smaller. Brooks noted the value of all the time and effort invested into his research prior to the conference acknolweding that “all the time spent designing, doing fundamental math and science, creating in the lab, going through that whole process and seeing it work was challenging but very gratifying. It means that you have something to talk about and share through conferences and journals.”


Zichao  Ye
Zichao Ye
Ye received his bachelor’s degree in 2014 from ECE ILLINOIS and is now in his fourth year pursuing his PhD in electrical engineering. Ye enjoys the hands-on approach to engineering and is interested in the many different sub areas of power electronics. He said, “power electronics is a special subject that requires a very broad knowledge and intersects many areas. It is interdisciplinary and it is important to be able to apply the knowledge to solve worldwide problems. We are always going to have power needs.”

Ye’s research concerned a new converter topology called the flying capacitor multilevel (FCML) converter. The FCML converter has become very popular due to how it can naturally balance the capacitor voltages through the use of phase-shifted pulse-width modulation but there is one main issue: if the capacitor voltage is not controlled within a certain range, then that could lead to a reliability issue.Ye is focusedon balancing the capacitor in a practical implication to avoid any such reliability issues. 

Brooks continues to focus on this project while Ye also focuses on hybrid switch capacitors to improve the efficiency of power for renewables, aircraft, and wind turbines. Both Brooks and Ye are excited about the new applications in their field. As Brooks says, “electrical engineering will never go away. We will always need more power and try to improve upon the power converters. There are many exciting new applications such as electric aircraft, things that don’t exist right now but many companies are actively developing renewals.”


Brooks and Ye expressed their thanks to their advisor, Professor Pilawa, as well as their co-authors, professors, and Texas Instruments for sponsoring their work. 

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