BiSSL First Author Interdisciplinary Paper Published

Our interdisciplinary paper with Electrical Engineering, first authored by BiSSL grad student Varuneswara Panyam, has been published in Applied Energy. The paper covers our proposed method for using ecosystems to guide the design of power grids towards a more biologically-inspired resilience.

The paper is available for free download here through July 16, 2019.

Technological advances have created a world where humans are highly dependent on an uninterrupted electric power supply, yet extreme weather events and deliberate attacks continue to disrupt power systems. Inherently robust ecological networks present a rich source of robust design guidelines for modern power grids. Analyses of ecosystem networks in literature suggest that this robustness is a consequence of a unique preference for redundant pathways over efficient ones. The structural similarity between these two system-types is exploited here through the application of ecological properties and analysis techniques to long-term power grid design. The level of biological similarity between these two system-types is quantitatively investigated and compared by computing ecological network metrics for a set of synthetic power systems and food webs. The comparison substantiates the use of the ecological robustness metric for optimizing the design of power grid networks. A bio-inspired optimization model is implemented, which restructures the synthetic power systems to mimic ecosystem robustness. The bio-inspired optimal networks are evaluated using N-1, N-2, and N-3 contingency analyses to assess system performance under the loss of 1, 2, and 3 components respectively. The bio-inspired grids all experienced significantly fewer violations in each loss scenario compared to traditional configurations, further supporting the application of the ecological robustness metric for power system robustness. The results provide insights into how ecological robustness can guide the design of power systems for improved infrastructural resilience to better survive disturbances.

“Bio-inspired design for robust power grid networks” by Varuneswara Panyam, Hao Huang, Katherine Davis, Astrid Layton

Mechanical Engineering Senior Design Team for “Matrix Trays: Waste to Opportunities”

Matrix Trays: Waste to Opportunities, a seed grant project supported by Texas A&M’s President’s Excellence Fund, funded a Mechanical Engineering senior design/capstone team with myself and Dr. Ahmed Ali from the Architecture department as their advisors. Read more about the project here: “Student-designed smart shades reflect a more sustainable future

“The project focused on taking a very common industry byproduct, a single-use matrix tray used for placing small electronic chips, and conceiving and prototyping a new product that would use the trays that removed them from the waste stream,” Layton said. “This goal aligns with those of a circular economy where the label ‘waste’ is removed by recognizing existing value. The students were given free rein in their concept generation, a freedom that resulted in an exciting final product with significant potential for future work.”

BiSSL Grad Student Finalist for the Leo Best Paper Award at CIRP-Life Cycle Engineering

Colton Finalist

BiSSL MS student Colton Brehm was a finalist for the Leo Award for best paper for his  CIRP Life Cycle Engineering  conference paper “Designing eco-industrial parks in a nested structure to mimic mutualistic ecological networks.”

Abstract: Industrial Ecology uses ecological systems as a guide for improving the sustainability of complex industrial systems. Eco-Industrial Parks (EIPs) have gained support as a solution that seeks to simultaneously reduce environmental burdens and promote economic interests by exchanging materials and energy between industries to their mutual benefit. Recent studies have focused on drawing relations between food webs (FWs) and EIPs to improve the sustainability of the latter using ecological metrics, such as the level of cycling or average connections between actors. This study incorporates a new ecological metric, nestedness, into the discussion of sustainable design for EIPs. The association of nestedness with mutualistic ecological networks supports its application to EIP design. The work here improves the understanding of holistic network structure with the goal of improving future design decisions for EIPs with purposeful placement of material and energy flows.

The full paper is available here.