Sandia LabNews

Sandians honored by IEEE Albuquerque Section

The IEEE Albuquerque Section has recognized two Sandians: David Schoenwald as a 2017 IEEE Outstanding Engineer and Sheng Liu as a 2017 IEEE Outstanding Young Engineer.

David was honored for contributions to the development and realization of next-generation smart grid technologies by improving the damping of wide-area power system oscillations in the western North American grid. He’s principal investigator for a project on wide-area damping control, co-funded by the Bonneville Power Administration’s Office of Technology Innovation and the DOE Office of Electricity’s Transmission Reliability and Energy Storage programs.

Sheng’s award recognizes his scientific contributions to the development of dielectric metamaterials and fundamental advances in understanding light-matter interactions of nanostructure materials using linear and nonlinear optical techniques. The award was both for his work in metamaterials and his research into novel silicon photonics.

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David Schoenwald

Damping oscillations has wide-range effect on grid

Oscillations are a fact of life for the electric grid, particularly over the long distances on the western grid that encompasses the Mountain and Pacific time zones in the US and Canada. In recent decades, utilities have avoided undamped oscillations — and the potential for blackouts that can result from these oscillations — by transmitting less electricity than the lines are rated to handle, says David (8813). Utilities lose revenue doing that, which eventually could lead to building costly new lines rather than risk undamped oscillations by sending larger amounts of power on the existing grid, he says.

David and a Sandia team have been working to solve the oscillation problem for four years. He says the team has made significant progress and will likely have funding to continue the research for two more years. David estimates the technique can be further developed and implemented as an operational control system in the grid about two years after Sandia wraps up the project in 2019.

“The outstanding engineer award is a great honor,” David says.

He was unable to attend the May banquet for the honorees because he was in Oregon, working on the smart grid project. “As excuses go, that one’s pretty good,” he jokes.

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Sheng Liu

From metamaterials to silicon photonics

Sheng (5265), who says physics has fascinated him since he was a child, now researches nanophotonics, including metamaterials and silicon photonics.

“It is an honor and privilege to be awarded this, and it will motivate me to continuously contribute to the research in nanophotonics,” says Sheng, whose work is done mostly at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnology, a DOE user facility jointly operated by Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.

For his doctorate, Sheng focused on experimental ultrafast optics. Since joining Sandia, where he has access to broad resources in nanofabrication, simulation, and nanophotonics characterization, Sheng has expanded his research into photonics devices and light matter interaction, developing techniques to study optical properties of materials at the nanoscale.

Initially, he concentrated on metamaterials, where fundamental physics discoveries still abound, but also has contributed to maturing silicon photonics technology. Metamaterials have potential to manipulate light in such a way that significant size, weight, power reduction, and new functions could be achieved for optical systems, such as infrared imaging and LIDAR. In addition to metamaterials, Sandia is a leader in silicon photonics that have applications in high-performance computing, electronic warfare, and quantum communication, sensing, and information systems, and has expertise to fabricate silicon and III-V photonic devices and microsystems.

Sheng says silicon photonics is more application-oriented and uses electronics industry tools and materials to make highly compact and scalable photonic devices and circuits. Applying silicon to optics could revolutionize daily life with, for example, significant improvements in cost, speed, and energy consumption for internet users in the future, he says.

“I’m always excited to learn new skills and embrace challenges,” he says. “It’s a pleasure to work here. It’s a friendly, collaborative environment.”