High Power System Laboratory


Electric power systems for aircraft are continuously increasing in size.  In commercial aircraft the need for efficiency is requiring the development of more electric aircraft with power requirements of 1.5 MW. For military aircraft advanced weapon systems are creating the demand for increased electrical power at levels of nearly 10 MW.

Development of these power systems would require advanced laboratory systems.  With a wide variety of systems being developed, creating specialized laboratories for each of the systems becomes an unreasonable expense.   A general purpose laboratory would, therefore, be beneficial in reducing the total development expenses.  Such a laboratory could be used to develop other power systems with power capabilities in a similar range as what is expected for advanced aircraft systems.

Potential User

There are a wide variety of applications that could use such a laboratory in the development of their power systems.  Along with the main target of the aerospace industry, users can vary form electric vehicle development to alternative fuel power sources.

Because of the increased need to reduce the national dependency on foreign oil, hybrid and electric vehicle technologies are becoming popular as alternative to conventional vehicles.  The power requirements for typical passenger vehicles are somewhat less than the requirements of proposed future aircraft, but are in a range that could be use the laboratory for further development.

Advanced military vehicles being proposed would require considerably more power than standard passenger vehicles.  The power needed for advanced weapon and communications systems would create a need for high levels of electric power.  The development of these power systems would fit well into the laboratories capabilities.

Diesel-Electric locomotives were the earliest series hybrid electric vehicles developed.  Originating in the 1930’s they use diesel engines to generate electric power while the actual motion is produced through electric motors.  Current locomotives use power up to 5 MW.  Further development of these vehicles could easily be accommodated by this facility.

The laboratory could be useful in developing other alternative energy sources.  Wind power generation systems are become larger and more sophisticated. Fuel cells are researched as an alternate source of electric power.  Such power systems could be further advanced using the proposed lab.

Proposed facility

The proposed facility is being planned to be highly flexible so that it can accommodate a wide variety of systems.  It 56,000 sq ft facility will consist of four test cells, a staging area, and some office space.  There will be two cells of 9500 sq ft and two of 6300 sq ft that will be climate controlled, secure, and accessible.

The control rooms will be on the second floor and will be designed such that the tests will be visible from them.  Extensive equipment will also be available to observe the tests.  Video cameras, intercom systems, and remote sensors will allow the test to be fully monitored.  Through Ethernet connections tests can be monitored either at the laboratory or at remote locations.  Thus user would be able to observe tests at their home locations.

Equipment available at the laboratory would be able to supply a wide range of experiments.  The lab will have capabilities of up to 10 MW of power.  There will be a total of eight dynamometers distributed in the laboratories that include 3 x 1,500 hp and 5 x 750 hp machines. Laboratory power will be available in several voltages up to 4,160 V, and at various frequencies including a 400 Hz 180 kVA supply, a 300 kVA variable frequency supply, and a 200 kW dc power supply.

The proposed location for the laboratory would be the Technology Park adjacent to the Chicago/Rockford International Airport (RFD).  Along with being close to a major airport, rail lines and expressways are also readily available making the facility very accessible. The laboratory being located in Rockford would be nearby many urban industrial areas including Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison, WI.

Economic impact

 The laboratory is expected to employ 10 full time workers.  Along with the full time employees additional workers from the user will be regularly on site to aid in the test development and monitoring.  With other indirect and induced employment a low estimate of the area employment created by this facility it is expected to be around 17.

Activities in the laboratory are expected to continually add to the economic activity in the area.  With indirect and induced effects the laboratory is expected to produce $3.2 million in economic activity for the region.


The need for increased electrical power level in aircraft has spurred the need for development of a high power systems laboratory.  Although originally driven by the aerospace industry, the proposed laboratory could be used in the development of many other power systems.  By locating the facility near the Rockford airport, it would be easy to access and provide a good economic benefit to the region.


College of Engineering and Engineering Technology
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115-2854