Collaboration between industry and academia towards a more sustainable future

Collaboration between industry and academia towards a more sustainable future

The hardware-in-loop (HIL) simulation technology gets a second life at Aalto University, helping students understand how renewable energy can be integrated into a power system.

As the maritime industry is under ever-growing pressure to reduce its carbon footprint, lean, green and highly efficient electric power is proving increasingly attractive. The new generation of engineers emerging from academia need an understanding of all-electric and hybrid technologies available today and tomorrow.

Providing students with the knowledge of the scientific theories behind these complex systems is a necessity for research institutions which aim to be at the forefront of global technological development. Cultivating that competence is also an imperative for the maritime industry set on leveraging the benefits of electric power management, distribution and propulsion for ship efficiency and sustainability.

The recent joint donation of a fully functional hardware-in-loop (HIL) equipment by ABB and Typhoon HIL is an example of collaboration that recognizes both the needs of academia and the expectations of industry. While strengthening industrial–academic collaboration on research into sustainability-focused technologies and solutions, the donation gives the equipment a second life, repurposing it as an educational tool and thereby reducing waste. To ensure utilization of the equipment to the fullest, Typhoon HIL provides Aalto University with free academic software licenses for the coming years.

HIL simulation technology allows the real-time simulation of complex power systems using scientific models previously validated in real systems. This in turn facilitates the research of microsecond-level phenomena in large-scale power systems in a safe and controlled environment.

“At best, collaboration between the university and corporates brings about solutions with a great impact on society. Collaboration leads to change toward a more sustainable world, develops new skills and knowledge, and creates jobs”, says Jorma Kyyrä, Professor and Head of Department of Electrical Engineering and Automation, Aalto University.

“The HIL technology allows us to demonstrate electrical and system phenomena that can typically only be reproduced using real hardware. This significantly enhances our research capabilities and helps us to provide more comprehensive education to our students in the fields of power systems, power electronics and electric drives”, Kyyrä adds.

“Hardware-in-loop technology enables the research and testing of complex power-system phenomena without the need for large and typically unfeasible hardware investments,” says Arber Haxhiu, Global R&D Product Manager, ABB Marine & Ports. “By working on the same research and testing platforms, ABB and Aalto University narrow the gap between academic and industrial research, thus enabling shorter adoption times for state-of-art decarbonizing technologies.”

In HIL testing, signals from a controller are connected to a simulation system, causing the controller to ‘think’ it is part of the physical product. This allows the user to run thousands of scenarios to evaluate the controller thoroughly, with potential examples including testing power-converter control options in a propulsion system and using the simulator to demonstrate how renewable energy could be integrated into a power system.

“In line with ABB’s corporate-wide approach to circularity, we are constantly looking into opportunities to maximize efficiency, reduce waste and extend product lifetime,” says Roy Funck, Head of Technology, ABB Marine & Ports. “The Typhoon HIL simulation equipment provides students at Aalto University with an excellent opportunity to gain practical experience with electrical systems. Hopefully, our donation can inspire and contribute towards future innovation breakthroughs.”

“Typhoon HIL is delighted to participate in this donation, repurposing the perfectly functional equipment as an educational tool to the benefit of next generation of engineers,” says Bozica Kovacevic, Global Manager for Academic relations, Typhoon HIL.

Aalto University and ABB have cooperated for more than 130 years. The collaboration comprises research projects, professorships and guest lectures as well as student cooperation and doctoral training. In addition to marine technology, current research projects cover areas such as the regulation of electric drives, electromechanics, power electronics, electric grids, telecommunications networks, and data networks mechatronics, and process technology.


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