Professor Thomas Ortmeyer is working to improve power quality of the Navy's electric propulsion system, which may potentially be scaled down for other uses.
Present Position: Professor, Department Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Clarkson University
Degrees: B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, Iowa State University
Area of Research: Power quality, power distribution, and power electronics in ac transmissions, shipboard systems, and industrial-size systems
Most recent research? I am working with the Navy on a variable voltage, variable frequency bus that couples the generator to the motor with no power electronics. The motor drives the propellers, then couples to the ship bus to run everything from the ovens to the radar system. It has a lot of potential to increase fuel efficiency and decrease weight and volume. I am also looking at common mode paths for the converters in order to meet both the military standard that limits current and the electromagnetic standard that limits frequency. One student is researching if the propulsion system can be scaled down for use in hybrid cars.
Why power management? It wasn't a straight career path. Between grad school, IEEE, and Clarkson, I have been involved with the control and protection of power systems, harmonics, and power electronics—the three areas of power management.
Impact of power management on design engineers: The power quality assessment tools I work on are made to improve design engineers' ability to do good design. For example, in a harmonics system, the goal of design engineers is to reduce the number of iterations from several thousand to several hundred. With power management, we are able to tell grid designers which system configurations need to be looked at.
Greatest challenge in working in power management? To keep projects somewhere in the middle ground between pure theory and pure application. Some projects are too theoretical and the application potential is just not there.
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