1/2014

Bringing electrical engineering practices to the next level

Stefan Kurz

 

Stefan Kurz is a FiDiPro Professor at TUT. The FiDiPro Programme enables highly merited scientists, both international and expatriates, to work and team up with the "best of the best" in Finnish academic research.

 

Even small improvements in the energy efficiency of existing electrical devices have a significant global effect. The replacement of combustion engines will also require new kinds of electrical machines. All this boils down to one question: how accurately can electrical devices be modelled?

Electrical engineering has a long tradition, and all the easy solutions and standard knowledge shared by professionals have already been exploited. As modern engineering and the academic education of engineers relies very much on the mathematics developed before the 20th century, there is a gap between the best existing scientific knowledge and the commonly used engineering practices.

The latest knowledge in mathematics has already improved the accuracy of scientific models in physics, and now the same is happening in engineering. This means that it will be possible to model more challenging problems and make more accurate predictions about the properties of electrical devices.

“This is also very important for industry, as the capability to make small improvements in products will have a substantial effect on the markets. If a company improves the efficiency of an electrical motor designed for a car by 1%, its effect on the global market share is much bigger,” says Professor Lauri Kettunen from the Department of Electrical Engineering at TUT.

WHO? Professor Stefan M. Kurz

  • Has made contributions to the advancement of computational electromagnetism.
  • Born in Ludwigsburg, Germany, in 1966.
  • Received his diploma and PhD degrees in Electrical Engineering
    from the University of Stuttgart in 1992 and 1998.
  • Has held research positions at Bosch and a professorship at the Helmut Schmidt
    University, Hamburg.
  • Vice President of ETAS, Stuttgart, 2006 - 2010.
  • FiDiPro Professor and Research Director in the Department of Electrical Engineering at TUT from June 2010 to May 2014
  • Works as Chief Expert for Electromagnetic Modelling and Simulation in the Division of Research and Advance Development of Robert Bosch GmbH, Germany.
 

Sharing the same goals

For the past four years, Professors Stefan Kurz and Lauri Kettunen have collaborated with software vendors and industrial companies to develop software systems that meet the needs of future users.

The TUT Electromagnetic group is internationally known for the combination of electrical engineering and modern mathematics. The group has always been committed to laying a solid scientific foundation for its work and continuously strengthening and deepening its knowledge. Furthermore, this group has carefully honed its everyday practices to support creative and innovative thinking.

The FiDiPro project titled “Advanced Electromagnetic Modelling and Simulation for Engineering” provided Stefan Kurz with a unique opportunity to combine his academic expertise and industry and management experience with people sharing the same goals. The aim is to push engineering practices to the next level by relying on the latest scientific fundamentals. Kurz splits his time between Finland and Germany. He is dedicated to the advancement of electromagnetic theory in an effort to build a bridge between 20th century mathematics and electrical engineering.

Important new openings

The project consortium includes two software companies, Cobham and CSC, and four industrial companies: ABB, Bosch, KONE and Nokia.

“We worked with KONE on modelling and simulating their elevator drives, and developed a pilot version of more accurate simulation software for them,” says FiDiPro Professor Stefan Kurz.

“We also developed a 3D interior map solution. It enables the construction of 3D maps based on previously taken photographs,” adds Lauri Kettunen.

Utilising industry expertise in research

Before his FiDiPro professorship, Kurz held various executive positions at the German engineering and electronics company Robert Bosch and its subsidiary ETAS.

“Bosch was a fascinating company to work for, but at some point I started wondering if there were other ways to utilise my expertise. I had some ideas about how 20th century mathematics could be used to improve electromagnetic modelling, but I never seemed to have enough time to look into them properly,” says Kurz.

“Then I met my old acquaintance Professor Lauri Kettunen at a conference, where he told me about an exciting new concept, the Finland Distinguished Professor (FiDiPro) Programme,” he recalls.

They submitted a pre-proposal for a research project and were subsequently invited to complete a full proposal. It was accepted.

“And that is how my FiDiPro professorship came to life.”

Once his contract ends in early summer 2014, Kurz will return to Germany to pursue corporate research at Bosch. He will also continue his teaching and research collaboration with German universities. Kurz has thoroughly enjoyed his time in Tampere.

“Living and working in Finland has been a wonderful experience. I have appreciated the academic freedom to explore uncharted territory and have made many new friends.”

 

During the project, the researchers managed to combine modern geometric tools with the analysis of electromagnetic phenomena. Another important outcome was the entirely new technological application areas found as a result of the geometric research work, such as processing further information extracted from photographs.

A total of 25 scientific papers and two research reports have so far been completed during the project.

YouTube videos illustrate the bigger picture

One of the goals was to create a new concept for training engineers and TUT’s industrial partners.

“We found that Internet videos are an excellent medium for illustrating the bigger picture behind phenomena, provided that they are linked to a scientific paper that places them in the proper theoretical context,” says Kurz.

“We made a YouTube video, and another one is currently underway.”

The videos enable industrial designers to adopt a more systematic approach to design processes.

“This type of joint educational initiative improves the professional skills of both parties. We learn from the industry experts, and they learn from us,” Kettunen explains.

More similar training videos will be produced after the FiDiPro project ends.

Text: Leena Koskenlaakso
Photo: Mika Kanerva

 
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