Philip Renkert

  • Resume
  • View Philip Renkert's profile on LinkedIn
  • M.S./Ph.D. Candidate in Mechanical Engineering – University of Illinois
  • B.S. Mechanical Engineering – University of Virginia (May 2020)
  • Research Interests: Control Systems, Manufacturing Systems, Robotics

  • Current Work

    To meet rising performance and efficiency demands, engineered systems have become complex. A formalized design process must coordinate engineers’ efforts to create modern systems. Typically, controller design is considered only after electrical, mechanical, and other subsystems have been defined. Excluding control blinds the design process to dynamic subsystem interactions and often prevents the final design from reaching a system-level optimum. An approach referred to as control co-design (CCD) has emerged in response to these limitations. CCD considers controls concepts throughout a system’s design and optimization and has been successfully applied in the literature to simple systems like DC motors.  However, existing CCD tools are difficult to scale to complex systems. Phil’s graduate work aims to develop a framework and toolset for simultaneous plant and controller optimization of complex, multi-domain, dynamic systems. Optimization routines will not be limited to preconfigured architectures and continuous sizing variables. Instead, they will aid engineers in the search for optimal system topologies early in the design process. Paramount to successful implementation are novel techniques to reduce the optimization’s computational cost.

                An exciting application area for the proposed research is urban air mobility (UAM). Pressures of resource availability and population density, coupled with technical innovations, have created a perfect storm for the exploration of new transportation modes. The innovation community has focused much of this energy on electric vertical take-off and lift (eVTOL) aircraft, an efficient, inexpensive, reliable, and quiet alternative to helicopters. Distributed electric architectures create an enormous design space for eVTOL vehicles. Various concepts and prototypes have been proposed, but none have been accepted as the ideal design. Tools designed to assist in the search for optimal configurations would be of immense value. Furthermore, studies of conceptual eVTOL vehicles call for the consideration of system dynamics and controls concepts in the design process. Once a CCD optimization framework is developed, the techniques will be applied to the design of a hybrid eVTOL powertrain to demonstrate their practical effectiveness.