ECE researchers win INTELEC best technical paper award

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By Bridget Maiellaro, ECE Illinois
December 10, 2007

  • Professor Krein and former graduate student Alexis Kwasinski's paper discusses a planning framework to reduce telecommunication site electric power supply vulnerability in disasters.
  • The paper was inspired by the team’s research following Hurricane Katrina.
  • Krein and his graduate students will work on alternative forms of energy and the high performance conversion of energy.

Philip Krein
Philip Krein

Philip Krein and former ECE graduate student Alexis Kwasinski’s research paper on preparing telecommunication companies for sudden disasters was recently named best technical paper for its contribution to power electronics and telecommunications power systems at the 2007 International Telecommunications Energy Conference (INTELEC).

Kwasinski said that the paper, "Telecom Power Planning for Natural and Man-Made Disasters," discusses a planning framework to reduce telecommunication site electric power supply vulnerability in extreme conditions such as natural disasters, like hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, or winter storms, as well as man-made disasters.

The paper was originally inspired by the team’s research following Hurricane Katrina. Kwasinski (MSEE ‘05, PhD ’07), now an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and fellow ECE graduate student Wayne Weaver traveled to Orange Beach, Ala., six weeks after the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast in October 2005. Since they were based several hundred miles away from New Orleans, the pair constantly traveled through the affected area.

"We studied places where communication sites were out and the reasons for the outages, specifically looking for places where the outage was caused by lack of power," Kwasinski said. "We also studied the restoration means such as use and deployment of gensets [diesel generator sets]."

Based on the research, Krein said the paper asks if one can suggest to a phone company how to plan for such disasters in advance, lists the key risks, the kinds of things likely to go wrong and the strategies to avoid.

"Disaster planning is something that all of them do. It’s been around for a long time, but we thought that some of the things that we learned from the Katrina disaster probably should get in front of people so they can apply them," Krein said. "We need to make those systems more reliable so they don’t fail when we need them."

Alexis  Kwasinski
Alexis Kwasinski

Kwasinski said he got the idea for the paper during a discussion at INTELEC 2006. "During the discussion I pointed out that one of the most interesting findings of our survey was that natural gas outages had not been as extensive as electric outages, meaning that it seems that natural gas could be used to power telecommunication sites though local power sources such as natural gasgensets, fuel cells, and microturbines," he said. "But, the INTELEC 2006 chair rightly answered that this observation cannot be extended to other disasters such as earthquakes, in which natural gas provision is interrupted on purpose to avoid fires."

As a result, Kwasinski said that the idea for the paper was to discuss how to plan for different disasters based on all their differences and how this planning can be taken into account by network operators at the time of purchasing new technology.

Krein and Kwasinski were told about the award just a few days in advance, and Kwasinski attended the 2007 INTELEC conference, which was held Sept. 30 through Oct. 4 at the Rome Marriot Park Hotel in Italy. While there, he received the award, which was sponsored by Nokia-Siemens, during the closing ceremony.

INTELEC is an annual conference dedicated to the analysis and discussion of issues related to telecommunication and data network energy systems technologies.

"I think it really reflects specifically on Alexis because it's primarily his work. I’m glad to see him start a career with this award. It’s great," Krein said. "The paper puts him in a good direction for the future."

For now, Krein said that he and his graduate students will continue to work on alternative forms of energy and the high performance conversion of energy. They will also look at issues of solar power and energy conversion, along with hybrid electric vehicle systems and how to control those processes.

Meanwhile, as the first professor in power electronics at Texas, Kwasinski plans to develop the program.

"If I can achieve in Texas what Professor Krein achieved in Illinois I will be extremely happy. If I can surpass it, I will be ecstatic," he said. "The power electronics program in Illinois is among the best in the world. Few programs can be compared in quality to the one in Illinois so it is a good model to learn how to do things well."

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at or (217) 244-6376.

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