Information Trust Institute block of abstract images
Information Trust Institute block of abstract images

Illinois students win 2nd best paper award at NAPS

ITI researchers Lin-Yu Lu (Steven) and Hao Jan Liu (Max), along with ITI and Electrical and Computer Engineering Assistant Professor Hao Zhu, were recently awarded the 2nd best paper award at the 2016 North American Power Symposium (NAPS).

Assistant Professor Hao Zhu
Assistant Professor Hao Zhu
The annual conference highlights the work of many graduate students and is focused on studies related to the power and energy systems and their components. Lu and Liu’s paper examined optimizing and securing the operations of microgrids.

Lu, a graduate student at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, and Liu, an ECE Illinois graduate student, started working on the project in February when Lu began a one-year exchange scholarship program with Illinois through the Taiwanese government.

Over the last decade, microgrids have been increasingly heralded as being able to improve the resilience of the electric energy sector against wide-area hazard events, such as Hurricane Sandy. However, compared to traditionally interconnected power grids, microgrids are significantly smaller and as such, any small disturbances in the grid will cause a large negative impact. In their paper, Lu and Liu develop distributed control design of the microgrids to ensure that their frequency levels stay balanced with fair sharing of responsibility among all generation assets, as well as to improve the grid's resilience to external faults and to detect malicious attacks to the cyber layer of the grid.

Hao Jan Liu (Max)
Hao Jan Liu (Max)
“Typically, frequency control is centralized where you have a master computer to do the controls, but we propose a decentralized control where each individual generator talks to one another,” Liu said. “Through the communications, the generators will achieve a consensus, like you would if you had a master controller.”

Liu said that not only is this method less costly and more robust than a centralized system, but it also allows the effects of any disturbance in the system to be efficiently mitigated.

“When a system is decentralized, if one node is attacked, the effect is going to be averaged out across all the nodes. You’ll see a disturbance, but it’ll be much less compared to a centralized system,” he said.

Liu and Lu’s work is unique because it looks at the cyber-physical aspect of frequency control. Typically, researchers will examine cybersecurity of a microgrid or the physical aspects of a grid, but not the cyber-physical interactions.

“We consider what the impact will be on the physical layer if someone attacks on the cyber layer,” Liu said.

The research is funded by the Department of Energy, as an ongoing effort at Illinois to look at cyber-secure energy systems and resilient energy delivery.

Lin-Yu Lu (Steven)
Lin-Yu Lu (Steven)
Lu and Liu were both very surprised and honored to receive this recognition, as more than 250 papers were submitted and 160 paper were presented.

“This work is very interesting and definitely going to be a hot topic for future power systems and the smart grids,” Liu said. “To have our work recognized as one of the best papers in the power industry means a lot because it shows what we’re doing is actually meaningful to the community. It really gives you a boost and, since these presentations were reviewed by professors and senior researchers, it’s really rewarding.”