NE/CEM’s Tsoukalas is director of new Center for Intelligent Energy Systems (CiENS)
With a main objective of advancing artificial intelligence (AI) approaches related to energy in the pursuit of smarter energy systems, the College of Engineering in fall 2021 authorized the new Center for Intelligent Energy Systems (CiENS).
Lefteri Tsoukalas, professor in Purdue’s School of Nuclear Engineering, is the center’s director.
“The focus of CiENS is the integration of rapidly advancing distinct AI theories and technologies into a coherent framework for energy at various scales,” Tsoukalas said. “The goal is to make energy systems simpler and safer to operate, more secure, efficient and resilient.”
An official launch will be held virtually on Jan. 25 with the CiENS Inaugural Meeting. Once Protect Purdue guidelines permit, organizers hope to host an in-person CiENS Symposium featuring keynotes from experts from multidisciplinary backgrounds.
“The idea is the result of collaboration from many individuals from different schools in engineering and beyond,” Tsoukalas said. To address the ever-present issues associated with the energy transition as captured by the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) comprehensive study of how to sustainably transition to net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 (Net Zero by 2050), neither a single department nor a single discipline can provide the intellectual breadth and technical depth to solve such problems.
In response, CiENS will mobilize a dedicated, innovative community of researchers from a wide range of fields to critically examine, develop and integrate emerging and future research into a coherent theoretical framework that will be applicable to AI and machine learning.
“For decades, the physical sciences and technology have dominated our approach to all problems. However, it has become gradually clear that each new technology, taken in isolation, often creates its own set of new problems,” Tsoukalas said. “Only recently have we come to recognize the role of AI in managing sophisticated technologies, such as the operation of power generating plants, high-performance aircrafts, spacecrafts, chemical and refining facilities and various manufacturing processes.”
Small-scale automation has realized successes in holographic grocery store checkout stations, check processing in banks, and automatic pilots in commercial aircraft. But large-scale automation — in situations such as power plant operation, automotive assembly facilities and cyber-security for nuclear reactors — has been more elusive.
In the near future, significantly improved efficiency in the workplace could be formulated and implemented with basic research findings, methodologies and paradigms developed at CiENS.
Located in Wang Hall, the center will provide research, educational programs and facilities to develop and deploy advanced concepts, techniques and methodologies for large energy systems at different scales. Methodologies include AI, neural networks, learning systems and fuzzy knowledge-based systems.
CiENS will operate on four primary pillars: a focused theme, innovative research, cross-disciplinary education and extensive outreach.
“We hope to enhance the global economic competitiveness and national security of the United States by developing intelligent tools for the increasingly critical problems of monitoring, diagnosing and controlling our energy infrastructure,” Tsoukalas said.