University of Arkansas (UA) engineering researchers have invented a novel electrical power converter system that simultaneously accepts power from a variety of energy sources and converts it for use on the electric grid system.

With the U.S. moving toward integration of renewable energy sources to the national power grid innovations in the field are critical.

Doctoral student Joseph Carr developed the system with his adviser, Juan Balda, University Professor and head of the department of electrical engineering.

Balda said, “It is very gratifying when doctoral students who invest many hours working on various research ideas are rewarded with a patent. At the same time, it is an indication of research work that several faculty members and their students are doing in the field of future energy systems.”

The availability and use of renewable energy sources, such as solar, geothermal and wind, and their associated harvesting systems increase the need for new power converters that can efficiently convert these types of energy sources to work across modern electrical grid systems. Current renewable energy conversion systems are bulky, inefficient and struggle to accept multiple inputs from diverse sources.

Simple Solar Inverter Circuit for Science Projects.  Click image for the largest view.   Image Credit: Wikipedia

Simple Solar Inverter Circuit for Science Projects. Click image for the largest view. Image Credit: Wikipedia

The researchers’ high-frequency matrix converter addresses these shortcomings. Its simplified control system uses power converters to allow connection of a variety of power sources to a small, high-frequency transformer. Then, using a high-frequency matrix converter, it produces stable electricity ready to be supplied to the electrical grid system.

The U.S. Department of Energy pursued and was granted a U.S. patent for the technology and is now seeking licensing opportunities for potential commercialization. The research was sponsored by a Department of Energy grant.

Carr received his doctorate from UA in 2011. He was a Distinguished Doctoral Fellow from 2005 to 2009 and co-authored nine articles published in journals and presented at international conferences. He now works for ABB, a power company in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Professor Balda has been at UA since 1989. His main research interests are power electronics, electric power distribution systems, motor drives and electric power quality. He is a senior member of the IEEE and member of the Power Electronics and Industry Applications Societies.

As associate director of the National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission, a 7,000-square-foot, $5-million power electronic test facility at the University of Arkansas, Balda is at the center of a critical corps of UA researchers investigating solid-state solutions for the nation’s electric power grid.

The post reads more like a news blurb. The press release is pretty thin. Still, the idea that a more efficient power converter could be coming is cause for some cheer. But no word on the comparable cost to old technology. Its also fairly worrisome that a government agency has the patent, but that might be better than an individual trying to get a start up off the ground.

The credibility on the new converter technology is pretty high. If the scale runs from small wind and home sized photovoltaic and up with better than competitive pricing home power generation might make more sense. For those ready to look more closely, the university’s press release comment section offers Professor Balda’s email for more information.


1 Comment so far

  1. Max Parsley on June 2, 2015 11:25 AM

    “Its also fairly worrisome that a government agency has the patent”
    Didn’t the government (we the taxpayers) fund the research? So shouldn’t we hold the patent?

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