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Dr. Eklas Hossain and Team Secure Prestigious NSF MRI Award for a Digital Real-Time Simulator

Dr. Eklas Hossain, the Principal Investigator and Director of the iPower Research Center, along with the collaborative efforts of co-investigators Drs. Kurtis Cantley, Aykut Satici, Edoardo Serra, and Sin Ming Loo, has been awarded the esteemed Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF). This funding enables the acquisition of a state-of-the-art flagship digital real-time simulator (DRTS) to significantly increase the STEM research capabilities of Boise State University.

Eklas Hossain

“Science and engineering research relies on the availability of modern instrumentation,” says Dr. Hossain. “Before proposing any solution for a real-world system, it is crucial to thoroughly test it using large-scale real-time simulation tools that can accurately capture and analyze the system’s responses comprehensively. This is vital in ensuring that the proposed solution is safe, efficient, effective, and can be implemented confidently in the real world.”

The funded DRTS is a scalable, configurable, multi-user accessible, efficient testing platform for multidisciplinary research and research training activities. The DRTS has a powerful Central Processing Unit (CPU) and Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) housed in the same box to allow users to build, design, test, and validate complex control and electrical systems while utilizing rapid control prototyping (RCP). Three major components make the DRTS an integrated research instrument. (1) A hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) system interfaces with physical systems to simulate their behavior in various scenarios, providing high-fidelity modeling and accurate testing while supporting communication protocols. (2) A Cyber-Physical Simulation (CPS) testbed offers a realistic model for communication networks and cyber threats, allowing for comprehensive testing and validation of cyber-physical system security. (3) A power hardware-in-the-loop (PHIL) Microgrid Testbench enables the testing and validating of microgrid controllers, inverters, energy storage systems, and other components in a virtual environment using real hardware and equipment.

“The planned uses of the DRTS include exciting research areas, such as modern power and control systems, robotics, and cyber-physical systems security,” added Dr. Hossain. “This instrument will enable us to make substantial jurisdictional contributions by advancing the essential research on enhancing the resilience of Idaho’s electrical grid.”

The DRTS will serve as a critical resource for numerous research teams, enabling a wide range of high-quality research activities. The DRTS is expected to benefit at least 300 undergraduates, 30 graduates, 5 postdocs, and 20 faculty members. These individuals will collectively represent many departments, including Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering (MBE), Computer Science (CS), and Civil Engineering (CE). Once the installation is complete, the DRTS will find its home in Room 206 of the Micron Engineering Center (MEC), situated within the iPower Research Center in the College of Engineering.

The iPower research group’s doctoral students, Sunjiul (Ocean) Islam, Nafiu Nawar, and Iffat Rezwana, were significant in developing the awarded proposal. Ocean, a co-author of the proposal, played a pivotal role throughout its development, from initial planning to its successful completion. Nawar, a contributing author, proposed two projects demonstrating the proposal’s intellectual merit. Iffat authored an important section specific to the solicitation.