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Professor Returns to Ohio State with Lab and Research in Energy System Control and Optimization

Stockar and members of her research team. From left: Stephanie Stockar, Audrey Blizard, Anna Misley, Armando Henriquez and Jacob Paugh.Stockar and members of her research team. From left: Stephanie Stockar, Audrey Blizard, Anna Misley, Armando Henriquez and Jacob Paugh.

Professor Stephanie Stockar returns to The Ohio State University bringing along her lab and research in the optimization and control of energy systems. Dr. Stockar is now an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) at Ohio State.

Stockar earned her PhD at Ohio State, and worked as a Research Associate at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) before joining Pennsylvania State University as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in 2016. At the end of the 2018/2019 academic year, Stockar transitioned over from Penn State University back to Ohio State, bringing her lab and research with her.

Upon returning to her alma mater, Stockar brought with her research in the optimization and control of energy systems, a research that was not a major thrust area in her previous institution. In particular, Stockar is interested in how to optimize and improve the efficiency of systems that are characterized by energy conversion and storage.

“I first arrived at Ohio State in 2008 as a visiting scholar. At the time I was pursuing my master’s degree from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and my research focused on Hybrid Vehicle Energy Management. I was interested in conducting research abroad and my advisor suggested a period at CAR where I could work with Professor Rizzoni. I truly enjoyed the whole experience: the research, the environment at CAR, the university and Columbus and decided to apply for a PhD at Ohio State,” Stockar said. “The opportunity to work with exceptional undergraduate and graduate students and the amazing colleagues in the department and college was something I was looking forward to coming back to.”

One area of Stockar’s research revolves around the optimization of district heating networks; a system for distributing heat generated in a centralized location through a series of pipes.

These networks typically provide heat to public buildings, so there are many variables that make testing and improving the efficiency of the energy systems difficult.

“It’s not very easy to test those strategies because it would require us to override what they are doing now. The other problem is that the repetition of testing is very difficult. You want to rerun the same test multiple times under the same conditions, but with district heating networks we have temperature in the environment changing, and people in the building asking for more or less heat, so you have a lot of variability, hence it’s very difficult to understand, evaluate or benchmark your control strategy,” Stockar said.

experimental setup in Stockars labStockar's lab set up for a scaled down experimentWith her laboratory setup however, Stockar is able to solve the issues that come with trying to test and increase the efficiency of these systems.

“We developed a scaled down experiment which was representative of a district heating network. Since it’s in a lab room and it’s much smaller, it operates faster and we can use that facility to understand whether our modeling approach for doing control design is appropriate and accurate. We can use a lab set up to implement and prototype control strategies and verify the optimality of our control strategies empirically,” Stockar said.  

Another project that Stockar is undertaking is the optimization of the air conditioning of a passenger vehicle by controlling different activators in the system.

“We need to develop a good understanding of how the system and coupling behaves so that we can minimize the energy usage and the fuel associated with the operation of the air conditioning,” Stockar said.

Stockar’s research is a valuable contribution in understanding the way that energy systems can be optimized and controlled, and this could lead to the increased efficiency to a wide variety of energy systems.

“Ohio State and Columbus have been the center of several university and community scale initiatives that line up with my research interests,” Stockar said. “As such, Ohio State provides a unique environment to collaborate across multiple disciplines, as well as Industry, National Labs and external organizations such as Smart Columbus. In addition to the research opportunities provided by such collaborations, these initiatives have been crucial for attracting outstanding students to the MAE graduate program.”

Written by Muhammed Al Refai, CAR Marketing and Communications Intern