Alex Q. Huang, Ph.D., is the Progress Energy Distinguished Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University. He will direct the NSF Engineering Research Center for Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management (FREEDM) Systems headquartered at NC State

Photo courtesy of Roger Winstead, NC State University.

The National Science Foundation (NSF, www.nsf.gov) awarded North Carolina State University and its partners with funding to establish a new NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC, www.ncsu.edu). The ERC, called “Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management (FREEDM) Systems,” will develop interdisciplinary research and education programs that are designed to address energy issues and provide the foundation for new industries through innovation. Under terms of the award, the NSF will invest approximately $18.5 million in the center over the next five years.

Since 1985, the ERC program has fostered broad-based research and education collaborations in close partnership with industry that focus on making technological breakthroughs and developing new products and services. According to the NSF, its ERC awards going forward will place a greater emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship and on international collaboration and cultural exchange.

“The Gen-3 ERCs have been designed to build on the well-developed understanding laid down by the two previous generations of ERCs,” said Lynn Preston, the leader of the ERC Program, in a prepared statement. “We have added to Gen-3 ERCs several new dimensions designed to speed the innovation process and prepare engineering graduates who are innovative, creative and understand how to function in a global economy where engineering talent is broadly distributed throughout the world. We expect these ERCs to make even more significant impacts on the competitiveness of U.S. industry than their predecessors.”

The FREEDM program will aim to conduct research to transform the nation”s power grid into an efficient network that integrates alternative energy generation and novel storage methods with existing power sources. This new, distributed network would permit any combination and scale of energy sources and storage devices through standard interface modules. The Center”s overall goal is to facilitate the use of green energy sources, reduce the environmental impact of carbon emissions and alleviate the growing energy crisis.

The NSF ERC for FREEDM Systems will be based at North Carolina State University (NCSU), in partnership with Arizona State University, Florida A&M University, Florida State University, and Missouri University of Science and Technology. Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen University in Germany and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology will contribute additional expertise and international perspectives.

The involvement of more than 65 industry partners, including many small start-up firms, is expected to spur innovation and provide university students with first-hand experience in entrepreneurship. The NSF ERC for FREEDM Systems will also work with 18 state and local government organizations in North Carolina, Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Tennessee to stimulate innovation based on its research.