Inventor of the Year devises efficient, small power systems


“I literally enjoy my work,” says Inventor of the Year Sudip Mazumder. Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services

The Inventor of the Year Award, presented by the Office of Technology Management, recognizes UIC researchers for innovative spirit and their invention’s potential impact to society. The award includes a $3,500 prize. 

Sudip Mazumder faces a dilemma: how do you create a power electronic system where the requirements are contradictory?

Mazumder is creating highly efficient and reliable systems that also take up a small amount of space.

“How do you come up with answers when those things do not go hand-in-hand together? It’s a design challenge,” said Mazumder, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

It’s a challenge he accepted and found solutions for through his patented power electronics technology. For his ingenuity, Mazumder was awarded UIC’s Inventor of the Year award.

Mazumder’s research focuses on interactive power electronics and power networks, smart grids, energy storage and renewable and alternate energy options for power electronic systems.

He designs reliable, efficient, sustainable and economical power electronics that can be used in technology ranging from smart power grids to electric vehicles.

“The objective of the electronic system is that you are really controlling power, which is at a higher voltage and current, using intelligent devices and systems,” Mazumder said. “The innovations I have address some of the issues including efficiency, reliability, power density and cost.”

Devices exist on the market for similar purposes, but the difference is that Mazumder’s patented devices are optically controlled rather than electrically controlled.

“The advantage of having an optical device is that the impact of the electromagnetic noise associated with switching large electrical power is mitigated,” Mazumder said. “Optically, it makes devices more efficient in terms of the mechanics used to turn them on and off.”

Mazumder joined UIC in 2001 after receiving his doctoral degree at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He received his master’s in electric power engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and bachelor’s degree at the University of Delhi, India.

His interest in power electronics stems from his master’s degree project in power electronics, when the field was just emerging.

“When you make something work, the interest grows and you think, ‘Maybe I can do more,’” he said. “The very notion of controlling power, it’s exciting.”

Power electronics is a practical field, Mazumder said, with a broad range of applications.

“It doesn’t always get the limelight — most people don’t look at an electronic vehicle and want to know something about the power system,” he said. “But it’s a global field, and power and energy are fundamental.”

Mazumder encourages the undergrads and graduate students he teaches in the College of Engineering to find their passion and follow it.

“If your heart isn’t in it, then the time you put in doesn’t always matter,” he said.  “If you work hard, it often pays off.

“I literally enjoy my work. I don’t even know how the time passes by some days.”

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