U of A research team invents electric power converter for renewables



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A high-frequency matrix converter invented by researchers at the University of Arkansas accepts energy from various renewable energy sources, including solar power, and converts it for use in the electrical grid system .

FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas — Engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas have invented a new electrical energy converter system that simultaneously accepts energy from various energy sources and converts it for use in the electrical network.

Doctoral student Joseph Carr developed the system with his advisor, Juan Balda, a university professor and head of the electrical engineering department.

Innovations in this area are critical as the United States moves toward integrating renewable energy sources into the national power grid.

The US Department of Energy applied for and was granted a US patent for the technology and is currently pursuing licensing opportunities for potential commercialization. The research was sponsored by a grant from the Department of Energy.

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

The availability and use of renewable energy sources, such as solar, geothermal and wind power, and their associated harvesting systems are increasing the need for new power converters capable of efficiently converting various energy sources to operate on modern power grids. Current renewable energy conversion systems are bulky, inefficient, and struggle to accept multiple inputs from various sources.

The researchers’ high-frequency matrix converter fills these gaps. 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 power grid system.

Carr received his doctorate from the university in 2011. He was a distinguished doctoral researcher from 2005 to 2009 and co-author of nine articles published in journals and presented at international conferences. He now works for ABB, a power company in Raleigh, North Carolina.





Juan Balda, University of Arkansas.

Balda has been a professor at the university since 1989. His main research interests are power electronics, electrical power distribution systems, motor controls, and electrical power quality. He is a senior member of the IEEE and a 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 electronics test facility at the University of Arkansas, Balda is at the center of ‘a critical body of U of A researchers investigating state-of-the-art solutions for the national power grid.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas offers an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes to new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while providing services to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation ranks the University of Arkansas among just 2% of US universities with the highest level of research activity. US news and world report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top U.S. public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentorship.

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