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Developing An Energy Mechatronics Laboratory

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Energy Laboratory Development

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.436.1 - 11.436.9



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Paper Authors

author page

Henry Foust Nicholls State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Developing an Energy Mechatronics Laboratory

March 8, 2006


Oil forms a major component of U.S. energy policy and economy. It is imper- ative today to determine viable alternatives to oil (expected to be depleted within the next fifty years), because the infrastructure for a viable alternative will take decades to develop. The purpose of this research is the design of a mechatronics laboratory applied to the broad area of system analysis and control for Ocean Ther- mal Energy Conversion (OTEC), which, among other things, is the transformation of the huge sources of thermal energy trapped in oceans into electrical energy. The energy mechatronics laboratory will ask broad questions about the performance of particular OTEC plants, the required infrastructure for this technology, the eco- nomic environment needed to make this technology viable, and the use of OTEC for hydrogen generation. OTEC is an area that was an emerging alternative energy source in the 1970’s, but research petered out as a result of the price for oil dropping by 1980. But now, with the price of oil surging, a renewal of interest in OTEC has begun [2, 3, 4]. Much of the research emphasis is occurring outside of the U.S. But what is mechatronics and its role in this research? Mechatronics is the application of electrical and computer principles to mechanical systems [1]. One example is the application of sensor, actuator, and micro-controllers to automotive engines. Mechatronics can be used in alternative energy conversions in respect to sensor selection, actuators, control methods, and the implementation of optimization schemes where a system approach develops the dynamic models and constraints on the optimization. Another component of the research is that the mechatronics laboratory works in conjunction with a material science laboratory for a summer undergraduate re- search experience. The governing idea is to take the students through the process of writing a publishable research article. Steps in this process include background on understanding our energy needs, projected future needs, oil reserve estimates, and alternative energies; understanding the economics of energy; identifying vi- able alternatives; developing an argument for that viability; testing this argument through lab work; presenting the argument, method, and results; and preparation of a research paper. The format of this research experience is a paid 12-week, 40-hour per a week internship. The breakdown of this internship is the following: 4 weeks of lectures,


Foust, H. (2006, June), Developing An Energy Mechatronics Laboratory Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--70

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