Revolutionizing Electric Grid Operation

BSISeveral months ago, I completed an interview with Gilburt Chiang from Bigwood Systems Inc. (BSI) on technology that his father, Professor Hsiao-Dong Chiang, developed through several grants from the DOE and ARPA-e at BSI. BSI has been developing and implementing on-line applications for electrical control centers since 1995 and is considered a world-leader in this industry.  Gilburt asked me not to publish the results of the interview until they had field testing completed at various utilities and system operators.  Recently, he shared with me the latest test results. Below are excerpts of our interview along with the testing results.

Susan Neylon – Can you give me a summary of your technology?

Gilburt Chiang – To operate an electrical grid at the highest efficiency, electrical utilities and power market operators have been working on the Alternating Current Optimal Power Flow (ACOPF) problem for a very long time. A good solution to the ACOPF problem could potentially save tens of billions of dollars annually by optimizing the operation and controls of the electrical network. However, most electrical utilities have been using linear computer models for computing optimal power flow on the power grid because of the numerical and modeling complexities of ACOPF.  Prof. Chiang at Cornell has developed a non-linear model called Global Optimal Power Flow (G-OPF).  G-OPF is a commercial-ready package that integrates a portfolio of analytical tools to revolutionize electrical grid management.

Susan Neylon – What have been the results so far?

Gilburt Chiang –  We worked with a large-scale power network operator with over 16,000 buses in their system and G-OPF was found to reduce system power losses by 47% while improving voltage security by 97%.  We recently benchmarked our performance at several other independent system operators (ISOs) and found the following results were:

  • System load conditions were increased from base case load to the nose-point load (furthest point before system collapse)—increased from 176,266 MW to 192,601 MW
  • The production costs (without optimization) went from $905,560 to $1,121,337 (23.6% increase)
  • The production costs (with optimization) were $593,423 to $593,250 (0.029% increase) respectively
  • G-OPF was able to reduce the production costs by 34.59% for the base case loading condition and 47.08% for the nose-point loading condition while maintaining voltage stability.

Susan Neylon – How will you go to market?

Gilburt Chiang – Bigwood Systems Inc. has 5 US patents in optimization on this optimization technology so we are well protected.  We have worked with Hitachi, a large electrical product conglomerate, in implementing the optimization technology in the product, Open V-Q for enhancing available transfer capability in the grid. We are also seeking further opportunities to partner and develop this revolutionary optimization technology.

Susan Neylon – What is next?

Gilburt Chiang – My role at BSI is leading business development.  There are many problems in the world outside of electric grid optimization that could be solved with this approach.  We are seeking and exploring opportunities both inside and outside of the electrical power industry.  

Susan Neylon – What keeps you up at night?

Client Success Story: The Ohio Supercomputer Center

AwesimThe Ohio Supercomputer Center will celebrate its 30th anniversary in June. Built with state funding and operating under the auspices of the Ohio Department of Higher Education, the center has established itself as the leading supercomputing and computational science resource for Ohio universities and industry. In 2016 alone, the center provided these resources to 1,300 clients across manufacturing, automotive, bioscience, and other data-intensive sectors.

The center was chartered to provide a supercomputing platform and user facility to Ohio’s researchers and engineers. In 2013, center leadership recognized an emerging need for business to leverage advances in modeling and simulation to rapidly design new products. Large businesses were building their capabilities in these innovations to improve quality and reduce costs, but Ohio’s small- and mid-sized manufacturers didn’t have access to the critical tools required. Creation of specialized software packages to complement the center’s cutting-edge supercomputing resources was identified as an enabling platform to provide these tools to a small- and mid-sized user base.

The Ohio Supercomputer Center team engaged ITECS as an early partner to support the development of a strategy that maximized its industry impact. This strategy became the basis for AweSim, a partnership between the Ohio Supercomputer Center, simulation and engineering experts, and industry to provide manufacturers with simulation-driven design tools that accelerate commercialization. The AweSim vision was developed into a successful $6.4 million proposal to Ohio’s Third Frontier Program that established the platform as a critical resource for industry.

You can learn more about AweSim and their world-class capabilities on their website, and don’t hesitate to contact ITECS for information on how we can help you translate your vision into reality!

Phil Smith, Ph.D.


The Next “Big Thing”

the next big thingThe Industrial Research Institute (IRI) had its annual meeting on May 8-11 at the Westin on the Boston Waterfront. The theme of the meeting was “R&D Beyond Four Walls.” The keynote speakers and the breakout sessions were outstanding. The highlight, however, for the conference was a talk by 2017 Medalist, Joi Ito from the MIT media laboratory. For those that do not know Joi, he is a Japanese activist, entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He was instrumental in bringing the internet to Japan. Some of the companies he founded were PSINet Japan, Digital Garage and Infoseek. He is chairman of the board of PureTec Health and member of the board on Sony Corporation, The New York Times Company, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the General Partner of Neoteny Labs. He not only recapped how the internet has been life changing, but he made the prediction that the next “big thing” would be biology. He spoke of how 30% of the projects in the Media Lab were focused on bioengineering, where DNA was replacing the silicon chip in the computer. He predicted the rate of growth will be faster than Moores Law. I was extremely honored to be in the presence of such a thought leader in technology.

Susan Neylon, Ph.D.

Leveraging Public Funds in the Private Sector

ESRFWe are always interested in how public funds can help the private sector. Recently, I met with Ennio Capria from the European Synchrotron. He was introducing Nanoelec PAC-G (Platform for Advanced Characterization), to the TechConnect audience in the hope of support commercial applications into the United States. I had an opportunity to interview him at that time.

Susan Neylon – What is the Nanoelec Platform for Advanced Characterization?

Ennio Capria – We are located in Grenoble and have basically three facilities: 1) A synchrotron with the highest brilliance in the word; 2) The most powerful continuous source of neutrons; and 3) A world leading R&D center for applied micro and nanotechnologies. I will mostly focus on the Synchrotron technology because that is my area of expertise.

Susan Neylon – What is a synchrotron?

Ennio Capria – Synchrotron is a device which generates very intense X-Rays that provide a nondestructive method for evaluating the topology, morphology, and structural analysis of a variety of systems. We can measure an atom, bulk material, a device or even a circuit board.

Susan Neylon – What is the advantage over other methods of evaluation?

Ennio Capria – For one, you don’t destroy the sample to get the structural analysis. You also get much better resolution inside the object than with any other x-ray method of analysis available in the laboratory. There is almost no sample preparation.

Susan Neylon – What is your business model?

Ennio Capria – The scale of the operation is impressive. For example, the electron accelerator is the size of a football stadium. Public funds, however, paid for the facilities and equipment.   Our business model is not to capture that return on investment, but to attract industry funds to offset the operational costs. Generally, it cost $450-650 an hour depending on the project.

Susan Neylon – Have you been successful?

Ennio Capria – Most of our business has been in Europe. Some of the projects we have worked on are innovative packaging. We also do a lot in the electronic industry, such as understanding delamination, bonding, the problem of connections, and identification of impurities. Right now, industry is taking up 10-20% of the capacity.

Susan Neylon – What keeps you up at night?

Ennio Capria – Finding applications that can best use the facilities.

Susan Neylon – If one of our readers would like to have more information on your service how can they contact you?

Ennio Capria – Have them contact me at

Changes in the Air


The Industrial Research Institute (IRI) sponsors several networking groups that share best practices around a given functional area. They include:

  • The New Business Development Network
  • The Human Resources Network
  • The Innovation Leaders Network
  • The External Technology Network
  • The Finance Strategy and Technology Portfolio Network

Twice a year they hold networking meetings allowing attendees to participate in one or several networks depending on their interest. On March 13-15th they had the meeting in New Orleans, and I had the honor of attending.

The biggest take away I had from the meeting was how rapidly R&D is moving from a not invented here syndrome to leveraging whatever resources are necessary to get the job done. Whether it was finding new processes in human resources to leverage “agile talent”, or new programs to financially evaluate revolutionary technology, or understanding how to leverage venture capital funds to introduce non-core technology, the name of the game was LOOK EVERYWHERE. Their annual meeting, which will be held on May 8-11 at the Westin on the Boston Waterfront, will have a similar theme. It is called R&D Beyond Four Walls. The keynote speakers and the break-out sessions will explore how organizations are pushing beyond the traditional value chain to adopt a more dynamic and integrated collaboration culture across the business enterprise.  Topics and case studies will focus on the role R&D plays in spotting, vetting, and validating new ideas, and integrating their value into the business. Susan Neylon plans to attend the conference.

ARPA-e Vision Takes Interesting Materials from the Laboratory to the Power Plant

SRI InternationalCooling is a significant end-use of energy globally and a major driver of peak electricity demand. Air conditioning for example, accounts for nearly 15 percent of the primary energy used by buildings in the United States. Therefore, former ARPA-e Ellen Williams, Director of ARPA-e, was very excited about radiant cooling as it allows for cooling with no energy input.

I was honored to speak with Erik Torgerson from SRI International who worked on the technology. Below are some excerpts from that interview.

Susan Neylon – Can you give our readers a summary of your technology?

Erik Torgerson – Our technology, which we call STATIC, stands for Spectrally Tuned All-polymer Technology for Inducing Cooling. STATIC is a cost effective solution that can be used as either a two layer insulative radiative cooler or a single layer system. It might be easier to think of the two designs as an infrared transparent batt insulation and a stand-off canopy film. In both embodiments, STATIC blocks over 98% of the solar spectrum, but is highly transparent in the infrared band, which allows heat to be removed from the system. Other radiative cooling technologies, such as those coming out of Stanford and the University of Colorado require various vacuum deposited coatings. Those technologies are not infrared transparent, and are focused on developing cooling panels for buildings. STATIC, due to its infrared transparency and all-polymer construction, allows for a myriad of other applications. Imagine those 90 million shade balls that filled the Los Angeles reservoir. We can thermoform STATIC into ball shapes, thus provide shade and the addition of cooling, in the same form factor as the shade balls. Imagine large STATIC canopies providing cooling to livestock in the California Central Valley during the height of the summer. Go to Arizona in the summer and sit outside, you’ll quickly understand the potential market for a passive cooling technology with the flexibility STATIC provides, and wish there was a STATIC awning or umbrella above you.

Susan Neylon – In developing the technology what sort of partnerships did you have to establish?

Erik Torgerson – We had IRADs dating back to 2010 where we worked to develop our concept for daytime radiative cooling, but we struggled to define a market for our technology. The ARPA-e ARID program was a major factor in our ability to transition our ideas into a working prototype. This also allowed us to seek out industry partnerships and we have had a very successful relationship with PPG Industries on this program.

Susan Neylon – What are your plans to commercialize the technology?

Erik Torgerson – The ARID program focuses on addressing water scarcity for the power plant industry. I expect this to be an important problem, but it isn’t a near-term problem. And it is one more affected by regulation than anything else at this point. There is long list of applications, some of which I mentioned, that have a market need right now. Radiative cooling is a nascent technology, one that requires a background in physics to understand. Our focus is on producing a large scale demo that allows us to skip the explanation, and go straight to the “wow” factor of experiencing the cooling power of STATIC firsthand.

Susan Neylon – What made you pursue this initiative in the first place?

Erik Torgerson – It’s a fascinating compilation of multiple physics phenomena, including the difference in the temperature of the sun (6000K) and earth (300K) produces blackbody curves that have nearly zero overlap, allowing the blocking of radiation from one, but allowing transmission of the other, and the large transparency window in our atmosphere right at the peak of the earth’s blackbody radiation. Combine those factors with the current concerns of a warming planet; it is a perfect storm for passive radiative cooling to enter the scene.   Researchers predict a 40-fold increase in air-conditioning demand this century. Nobody wants that new demand to be powered by coal. How can we not investigate new ways to tackle this ever growing problem?

Susan Neylon – What keeps you up at night?

Erik Torgerson – Kids keep you up at night. This program has been a favorite of mine. One of the times when all the initial modeling and theory was shown to be correct after we built the prototypes and did the testing. My concerns are the myopia in the energy industry. The Solyndra Effect has scared investors; they just want the next hot app. We as a society need to take the long view, and start thinking about what will keep our kids up at night 20 years from now.

ARPA-e Energy Innovation Summit

arpaeBy: Phil Smith, Ph.D.

I recently returned from the annual ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit. For those of you who haven’t attended, ARPA-E is the Department of Energy agency charged with advancing the development of high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are considered too early-stage or high-risk for public sector investment. The Summit is an annual conference and technology showcase that highlights some of the most important developments across a broad range of energy technologies. It’s a great event for networking with industry leaders, and for learning about the next generations of energy ideas.

This year’s Summit was full of optimism about the coming year and opportunities for energy R&D. A number of Program Managers are starting to plan workshops to prioritize investments in new programs. Potential topical areas are wide-ranging and include ideas in fuel cells, manufacturing that harnesses biological processes, reductions in HVAC energy usage, and programs to reduce the embodied energy of the food supply chain. These workshops are a great opportunity to help inform future funding topics, meet other participants, and to help shape a response to a funding opportunity announcement. ARPA-E also plans to issue an “Open” solicitation in FY18. These programs, released every three years, have broad allowance for high-impact energy ideas, and now is the right time to start planning a potential response.

Don’t hesitate to contact ITECS to learn where your business may be able to take advantage of these exciting new opportunities!

Client Success Story: Center for Automotive Research

car_logoEvery so often we like to catch up with some of our clients who have received funds from the government to see how they are doing. Phil Smith had an opportunity to interview Giorgio Rizzoni from The Center for Automotive Research (CAR). Below is their story.
CAR is an interdisciplinary research center in the Ohio State University College of Engineering with collaboration across multiple colleges. CAR combines broad expertise with state-of-the-art engineering, design, test, and analysis facilities. These facilities support university research and graduate and continuing education, as well as the commercialization needs of a robust industry and government client base.
Next-generation, sustainable transportation technologies have long been a CAR focus area. This focus includes energy conversion and storage, propulsion systems, vehicle intelligence and autonomy, and information and communication technology. With the emergence of new classes of vehicles, including hybrid-electric technology, CAR leadership identified an emerging need for a simulation, engineering, and test platforms to provide rapid feedback and accelerate the commercialization of new products. These products offer the potential for significant job creation and economic impact to Ohio, based on its strong industrial and manufacturing footprint in automotive and vehicle technology.
Ohio’s Third Frontier Program has been a strong supporter of statewide economic development by investing in areas critical to the state’s long-term competitiveness. CAR’s platform is well aligned with this mission, and ITECS was engaged as an early partner to assist in developing a strategy that ensured CAR’s facilities would meet the industry’s most critical needs. This strategy was developed into a successful, $3 million proposal that established the platform as a growth catalyst for Ohio, and a key resource for industry. Based on the award, CAR expanded their facilities to include a state-of-the-art, heavy-duty chassis dynamometer that can be used to measure vehicle performance, energy use and emissions for conventional, hybrid and electric medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicles.

You can learn more about CAR and their capabilities on their website, and don’t hesitate to contact ITECS for information on how we can help you translate your vision into reality!

Updates on ARPA-e Technology

arpaeThe ARPA-e conference is almost over and  Phil Smith has been representing ITECS at the conference. We love attending the conference as we get to see some really cool technologies. In fact, several months ago we highlighted technology developed by ANGP and Ingevity that was highlighted in the 2016 conference. Their goal was to make an affordable on-board natural gas storage system. The key to success was to lower the operating pressure of the storage system below 1,000 psi, and the technical path was to commercialize adsorbed natural gas (ANG) technology. This included the right adsorbent, a conformable storage tank and a low pressure appliance to convert the natural gas supply from your home, or business, into a “filling station”. Recently Brad Reed, Director of Business Development for Ingevity, contacted me to give an update on the status of the technology. Outlined below are ways they have made tremendous progress to bring this technology closer to commercialization:
  1. The adsorbed natural gas (ANG) coalition has expanded to include the enabling company they’ve been looking for to commercialize the proprietary “conformable” carbon fiber ANG tank developed by UTRC and exclusively licensed by ANGP.   A. Schulman will be sending out a press release soon announcing their decision to join the coalition.
  2. The ANG coalition will be exhibiting and presenting technical papers at the upcoming NGV Global conference in Rotterdam in March to expand their scope to the global natural gas vehicles market outside the U.S. .
  3. ANGP has secured the commitment from CSA to work directly with the coalition to develop test standards and road certification of this new, novel design, which is not a cylinder and contains an adsorbent (both new to the natural gas vehicle market).  CSA was the certification group that established the current test standards for high pressure compressed natural gas (CNG) cylinders, namely the  ANSI NGV-2 test standards.

ITECS Feasibility Study

feasibility studyITECS routinely works with clients new to pursuing federal and state R&D funding. These clients are often trying to answer the basic questions of whether they can benefit from these funding sources, and how to get started. To answer these questions, ITECS has developed a funding “feasibility study.”

Our feasibility study is based on understanding our clients’ growth objectives and existing innovation processes. Through primary and secondary research, we look to understand where these factors best match federal and state funding priorities, and to define the best possible paths forward to help our clients refine a vision for successful funded projects. The feasibility study is typically a 10-12-week engagement, during which we seek to answer two key questions: (1) what is the opportunity, and (2) what’s the best approach to take advantage of it?

ITECS results can be used to initiate an internal funding program, to allocate resources and build support, and to start seeding a pipeline of programs that take advantage of the $130 billion in annual federal and state science and technology funding. Our clients use these results to ensure that they are starting from a solid foundation, and are efficiently using their internal resources to maximize the opportunity to pursue disruptive innovation.

Don’t hesitate to contact ITECS and learn how our process can work for your company!

Phil Smith, Ph.D.