This research project relates to electric power distribution: the delivery of electric power from a generation and transmission system to a point of utilization. An important power system component is the circuit breaker, essentially a switch, used to isolate and separate parts of the system under fault and certain other operating conditions. In this project, a radical departure from mechanical circuit breakers is planned: microelectrornechanical (MEMS) switches shall be operated at very high speed to effectuate rapid system operating configuration changes. The use of MEMS switches will allow the application of advanced optimal operating strategies to permit rapid disconnection of faulted components; rerouting of power from faulted segments to unfaulted segments; utilization of DC distribution in naval applications; and minimization of system losses. The economic aspect of the project shall relate to the optimization of the cost to benefit ratio of innovative distribution system designs.
An important element of the project is education over a range of individuals including industrial and electrical engineers, students and industry engineers, researchers and practitioners. The premise of the educational component is the value of cross-fertilization in engineering education. The objective is to utilize cross-disciplinary topics for motivation as well as education -- at the undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education levels. The intent is to expose industrial engineers to electrical engineering topics; engineering students of all disciplines to MEMS technologies; and electrical engineers to optimization and uncertainty (especially from an IE point of view).