Lyne Woodward: Research that Benefits Renewable Energy Industrial Systems

There can be an enormous difference between an industrial system that just works and one that works optimally, both in terms of performance and cost. Lyne Woodward, Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, specializes in real-time optimization of industrial systems and processes. She develops complex algorithms for the field of renewable energies.

Focus on Optimizing Operations

Professor Woodward’s research work consists of developing algorithms to optimize industrial systems and processes. There are many potential applications, namely in industrial systems that use renewable energies, such as solar cells, wind energy and biochemical energy sources like microbial fuel cells, which she has been interested in for many years.

Cells That Are Fueled by Organic Materials

What’s unique about microbial fuel cells is that they are able to degrade organic matter and release electrons, which travel through the charge to produce electricity. Even though they are still in the experimental stage, there are many potential applications for these cells:
 

  • They could be used in the treatment of sewage, such as in a wastewater treatment plant, where they could lower electricity costs in an environmentally responsible way.
     
  • These fuel cells could also be useful as biosensors. Since their performance is a function of the organic matter on which they feed, by observing their behaviour, the composition of the organic matter that enters the system could be determined.
     
  • Microbial fuel cells could be used as stand-alone energy sources, which would be useful in remote areas, for example. However, researchers must first succeed in making them more effective. In addition, they must be able to be optimized in real time, taking into account a wide range of factors, such as substrate, temperature, humidity, pH level, etc.

Optimization: a significant issue for renewable energies

Optimization in real time is one of the critical issues of renewable energies. The algorithms developed by Lyne Woodward aim at continually maximizing the quantity of energy transferred into storage systems.

In the case of microbial fuel cells, it’s the conversion system that’s under study, in other words, the energy transformation produced by the fuel cell. Since the cells are small, each part used is of prime importance. The goal is thus to find efficient conversion topologies that use the least amount of parts.