The Smart Grids Lab of the Center for Energy Systems was officially opened with an excellent workshop

Prof. Janusz Bialek, Director of the Center for Energy Systems, opens the workshop.

Prof. Janusz Bialek, Director of the Center for Energy Systems, opens the workshop.

MIT Professor Konstantin Turitsyn.

MIT Professor Konstantin Turitsyn.

On December, 2nd 2016 Skoltech Center for Energy Systems (CES) organized a workshop to highlight its main research achievements in the area of power systems and to launch its new Smart Grids laboratory. The reports were presented by professors and researchers of CES, as well as Professor Konstantin Turitsyn of MIT, the main research collaborator of the Center, and representatives of the Moscow Power Engineering Institute (MPEI), V.A. Trapeznikov Institute of Control Sciences (ICS RAS). During the workshop, the Center’s research and development achievements in areas such as methods for on-line security assessment, power system stability analysis, transmission expansion planning, optimal frequency control in future power systems, demand-side management, voltage control in distribution networks, as well as incentive mechanisms for integration of distributed generation into power system were presented.

The workshop captured a considerable attention of the industry, with more than 100 people from over 30 companies attending the event, including representatives of the key ministries, energy companies and organizations, such as Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Far East, System Operator, Market Council, Rosseti, InterRAO, Rushydro, Rosenergoatom, Eurosibenergo, MOESK, Tavrida Electric etc. Each of the projects presented caused lively discussion, and at the end of the workshop, the participants noted how important and applicable the scientific research is for solving the practical tasks set for the Russian energy system.

Those tasks that were addressed to System Operator during the workshop were clear and very interesting for us. Therefore, the practical results that we could assess using our information platform would be useful for us.

The general area of research corresponds to the general level of understanding of the power sector development. We hope to see the continuation of your research and wish the Skoltech Center for Energy Systems every success.

Prof. Bialek and Prof. Alexander Ustinov, Associate Director of the Skoltech Center for Energy Systems, cut the ribbon of the new Smart Grids Lab.

Prof. Bialek and Prof. Alexander Ustinov, Associate Director of the Skoltech Center for Energy Systems, cut the ribbon of the new smart microgrids lab.

Presentation of the smart microgrids lab and its capabilities.

Presentation of the smart microgrids lab and its capabilities.

Representative of the National Technology Initiative (NTI) Project Office, Dmitry Korev, thanked Skoltech both for the excellent event organization and for the cooperation in creation of NTI Road Map EnergyNET. Dmitry recalled the recent Address of the Russian President to the Federal Assembly in which Vladimir Putin noted that NTI could be a bridge between the breakthrough fundamental research results and their practical implementation. According to D. Korev, “that is why it is very important to understand what global tasks in energy system management may be set, and I am glad to note that the report of Konstantin Turitsyn contains the tasks that can be solved mainly in Russia. These are the tasks that are of special interest to us, and we are ready to formulate them together with Skoltech in order to make them maximally focused on understanding of what product Russian scientists can create, that can be competitive not only in Russia, but in certain types of energy systems, including foreign ones”.
The representative of JSC “System Operator of the Unified Energy System” emphasized the importance of such events for understanding what Skoltech and Center for Energy Systems in particular are about, and noted that he was very impressed by the level of reports and research resources concentrated in the Center.

Oleg Barkin, Deputy Chairman of the Board of NP Market Council also expressed gratitude to the organizers and readiness for interaction: “There was a gap between the tasks discussed in Skoltech and actual practice that I saw on some of the previous events of the Energy system center, but today the common ground has been really found. In both in the most actual issues relating to distributed generation, and technical aspects of your work — you have very closely approached an actual practical questions.”

Some guests even noted that the event was the best of all in which they participated, but the most emotional feedback on the event and experience of work at Skoltech was given by one of the members of the Center:

As a representative of the young generation, I can say that this is the best place for conducting your research. I am very pleased to be among you all, and to work on most actual problems and cutting-age technologies. I thank Skoltech for providing me such opportunity. I am happy.

After the projects had been presented and discussed, the guests went to the ground floor of Skoltech, where the unique for Russia laboratory of smart microgrids was launched. According to the Director of the Center for Energy Systems Janusz Bialek, “the laboratory allows studying the processes in the energy equipment and modelling of smart thermal and power grids. The installed equipment is a modernized network of electrical power network using information and communication networks and technologies to gather information on energy production and consumption, which allows automatically improving the efficiency, reliability, economic benefit as well as stability of the electric power production and distribution.”

Contact information:
Alexander Zolotarev,
Skoltech Press Secretary
Tel. +7 (495) 280 14 81 ext.32-62

The future of satellite systems takes its share

Three years ago, Professor Alessandro Golkar took part as a Skoltech Faculty member, in the Skoltech-MIT faculty development program. He proposed to MIT Professor Olivier de Weck to evaluate the viability of federated and fractionated satellite systems, from a commercial and technological points of view. They launched a workshop to discuss this new and bold idea. 10 people took part in that first workshop. Recently, in his hometown Rome, Italy, Golkar saw how this idea is gaining momentum, as a community of about 100 people took part in the fourth workshop, with participation of key players in the space field.

Professor Alessandro Golkar (in the middle),during the fourth Federated and Fractionated Satellite Systems workshop in Rome.

Professor Alessandro Golkar (in the middle),during the fourth Federated and Fractionated Satellite Systems workshop in Rome.

On October 11-12, the fourth Federated and Fractionated Satellite Systems (FSS) workshop took place at Sapienza University in Rome, Italy, in partnership with Skoltech, MIT and Cornell University. Naturally, Professor Alessandro Golkar, now Interim Director of Skoltech Space Center, was one of the organizers. We asked him to tell us about the novel concept of federated satellite systems, and the recent workshop.

“Today, some satellites are used very inefficiently – most of the time they are idle, such as the case of some telecommunication systems”, explains Professor Golkar, “Countries spend on their development a lot of money, but does not employ the full potential of the systems. Our research is investigating the technical viability and opportunities opened by the sharing of satellite resources in opportunistic networks.”

A lot is talked today about “sharing economy”. eBay, Uber, and Airbnb are famous examples, representing different aspects of sharing economy. Can the same be done with satellites? At first, the idea seemed utopian, and now the main players in the commercial space arena consider this direction as a possible way to increase efficiency of their satellites. “This idea of federated satellites, which was born by a faculty member at Skoltech,” says Golkar, “is now seriously talked about by industry and space agencies people. The result of our research is now getting defused in the space community, beyond the Skoltech and MIT communities”.

Golkar describes how after the first workshop, he and Professor de Weck, decided to hold it annually. “Over the years we have been adding partners”, he says, “we started as MIT and Skoltech, then Cornell University joined, and after that Sapienza University joined. We are building a network of interested universities, and in the future we will probably include some companies as partners”.

“We discussed how this idea relates to the recent trend of mega-constellations that occurs in the market as we speak, for example OneWeb,” Golkar elaborates on the current workshop, “We always try to have high-level people coming to deliver their speeches. In the workshop we had the presentation of everybody in the value chain that concerns us. We had satellite integrators, presentations from Airbus, Lockheed Martin, from space agencies like ESA – all relevant players, including companies and organizations involved in service development, the so-called “downstream sector”.”

“The result of the workshop”, he states, “is that we all identify that there are policy and technical issues, but the idea is not impossible, it’s actually very feasible. We are slowly solving the problems and the technical challenges that we need to solve. This is something futuristic. I think it is the future of space systems in a way. It’s a matter of time, and we need to consider the fact that the space industry is quite conservative, so changes don’t happen very rapidly.

agolkar4

“We are laying the conceptual foundation for it, and I’m pretty sure this is going to happen. It depends on the willingness of the different space players to take the additional risk. This is going to be more realistic as soon as more small players will want to have access to space but will not be able to afford it, so there would be a demand for federated services, and also as soon as the economic constraints become more and more stringent and competition become more and more important. Then the suppliers will be incentivized to participate in such an idea.

“Is this going to happen spontaneously? No. in order to make this happen, and get the snowball effect, we need some strong government investment into this technology, and more people will join later on a commercial basis”.

As the issue attracts more attention from key players’ side, and while interest and attendance get bigger, it seems that the snowball has already started to roll. In the meantime, Golkar’s group of researchers at Skoltech is working on both theoretical and applied aspects of the idea in order to make it commercially viable. The group is finishing its first prototype of a laser terminal suited for federated operations, which will be used to connect small satellites in low Earth orbit. The goal is to run the created laser communication technology during a test flight in 2018, and then release it to the market. For them, the sky is not a limit. It is an opportunity.

Contact information:
Alexander Zolotarev,
Skoltech Press Secretary
Tel. +7 (495) 280 14 81 ext.32-62

As in space, so on Earth: Skoltech’s Rupert Gerzer on aerospace medicine and creative freedom

Dr. Rupert Gerzer came to work at Skoltech one year ago as an associate director of the research university’s Space Center, but as a qualified medical doctor, he does not hide the fact that his heart lies in medicine.

Dr. Rupert Gerzer pictured outside Skoltech at the university's graduation ceremony this summer. Photo: Sk.ru.

Dr. Rupert Gerzer pictured outside Skoltech at the university’s graduation ceremony this summer. Photo: Sk.ru.

“I am fascinated by space life sciences, but this is only a part of medicine,” says the German professor, an expert on the effects of spaceflight on the human body.

For this reason, Gerzer – now provost of the university – is particularly enthusiastic about the new international medical cluster being built at the Skolkovo innovation center, and hopes that the university will play a key role in the development of the cluster.

“This will be a major thing for Skoltech,” he says. “Skoltech already has a program focusing on biomedicine, and this will be something with practical applications on the ground at Skolkovo.”

Gerzer did not have to think for long when he was offered a job at Skoltech, a private graduate research university that was founded in 2011 in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“It was very simple, I retired from my position [as director of the Institute of Aerospace Medicine] in Germany and a colleague and good friend from MIT said: ‘Well Rupert, you’re retiring, wouldn’t you be interested in going to Skoltech?’ I didn’t know anything about Skoltech then. Then I met [Skoltech’s founding president, MIT aeronautics professor] Ed Crawley and it looked very interesting, so I decided to try it out, and now I’ve been here a year, and hope to be able to stay for many years,” he says.

All roads lead to Moscow

Gerzer had long been visiting Russia, having collaborated with a cardiology center in Moscow in the ’80s as a university researcher and with the Institute of Biomedical Problems – the leading space medicine and space life sciences institute in Russia – since the 90s.

“I was here at least once a year since the beginning of the 90s,” he says. “I saw the whole change [in the political system], everything, and I liked Russia more and more, so when I was asked if I would like to come here, I was very excited, and I still am, it was the right decision.”

A crucial factor in his enthusiasm is the most important aspect of the university: the students.

“Excellent students are attracted to come to Skoltech, which is a good sign,” says Gerzer.

“The reputation among the student community is here already,” he added, saying that during the most recent admissions procedure, many students had cited Skoltech’s practical programs as the reason they wanted to study here. A key part of the university’s ethos is that it does not just teach students science, but instils in them a sense of entrepreneurship and inspires them to find a practical application for their science and tech skills.

Gerzer remains a professor of the Skoltech Space Center, but is happy to be focusing on his role of provost – essentially the deputy head of the university – this term. It was a strategic decision by the university’s management to have a foreign provost now that Skoltech’s president is a Russian: Alexander Kuleshov, who took over from Crawley earlier this year. It demonstrates “that it’s an international university,” says Gerzer.

“I think it’s a good decision because I can still look at things from the outside,” he says, adding that while Kuleshov decides the general strategy of the university, Gerzer supports him in aspects such as international collaboration.

Gerzer pictured with German astronaut Dr. Reinhold Ewald, who gave a lecture to Skoltech students earlier this year.

Gerzer pictured with German astronaut Dr. Reinhold Ewald, who gave a lecture to Skoltech students earlier this year.

Doctor without borders

The path from medicine to specializing in human spaceflight is not, perhaps, the most obvious one.

“I was not a space enthusiast, but simply a doctor and a scientist,” says Gerzer, who spent many years after medical school doing research.

“One of the questions I had during that research was whether this [certain tasks] could be solved in human spaceflight, in weightlessness,” he says. His success in this field led him to be offered the post of director of the Institute of Aerospace Medicine, part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne.

During more than 20 years at the space institute, his interests remained firmly on the ground.

“I’m a scientist and I like to find out how humans function and what science can do to improve human health,” says Gerzer.

“Human spaceflight is part of this. When I was director of the Institute of Space Medicine, I always focused the work of the institute on questions where we can learn something from space medicine for regular medicine,” he said, adding that he accordingly discouraged his staff from doing applied research focusing specifically on astronauts.

“My philosophy was: this should be done by the countries that have spacecraft, by Russians and Americans, and not by Western Europe, because if I had found something that was only an improvement in how to care for astronauts, the Americans and the Russians would be happy that the Germans spent their money on helping them,” explains Gerzer.

“I think this way of thinking is now deep in the German space program. Human spaceflight in all countries is always being criticized [for its cost], but there is very little criticism in Germany now, because we could always say we were doing something good for medicine in general, and for our understanding of how we function.

Founding father

Gerzer’s rich experience in the study of human spaceflight has already borne fruit at Skoltech. Earlier this year, Skoltech signed a memorandum of understanding with the DLR, and two students will soon head to Germany to work on collaborative projects with the center, said Gerzer. In addition, Skoltech’s students have the chance to contribute to a brand new journal, REACH – Reviews in Human Space Exploration, founded by Gerzer this summer.

The professor had the idea for a journal offering an overview of all aspects of spaceflight several years ago, but it took time to convince the publishing house to invest in it, he says, laughing.

“There’s no real journal where anyone who’s interested in what’s going on in human spaceflight can find an overview of the whole field,” he explains. “There are many specialized journals, but you have to be an expert to know which journal to look for.”

REACH aims to change this, and in the first issue of the quarterly publication, Gerzer gave his students the chance to publish an article on what should be done after the International Space Station ceases its activity in a few years’ time.

“Young students are the future, and when they are in industry or a government agency or science, they are not free anymore to say what they think should be done – they will be free only 20 years later when they are leaders, but not in the first 20 years when many of them just have to shut their mouths and work, so I gave them the opportunity to be creative and say what they think should be done,” says Gerzer.

“Should humans fly to Mars, or should they build the next Space Station, because that’s so much closer to Earth? Should they land on the moon, should they build a space station around the moon, what should they do? They [the students] had to analyze what different nations have published, and then condense it and give their own opinion. And it’s a very interesting paper,” he added.

Gerzer also has experience in another of Skoltech’s areas of focus: inspiring scientists to turn their knowledge into businesses. He has founded two companies: Temos, a growing international company that provides ratings of hospitals and medical facilities in countries seeking to improve their medical standards, and a smaller company focusing on applications developed for space that could find a market on Earth.

“We’re currently considering founding a subsidiary [of the latter] here at Skolkovo, because students should have the opportunity to do so [start their own business], and it’s in the Skoltech strategy. I think it would be good to found companies that stay in Russia,” says Gerzer.

With his academic work, the new journal, his companies and occasional guest lectures in Germany, Gerzer’s timetable is a far cry from retirement – and that’s fine by him.

“It’s not boring, but I don’t want it to be boring,” he smiles.

Text: Shura Collinson, Sk.ru

Contact information:
Alexander Zolotarev,
Skoltech Press Secretary
Tel. +7 (495) 280 14 81 ext.32-62

Innovation Workshop 2016 – first week recap

One of Skoltech’s trademarks is the Innovation Workshop (IW) – a hands-on experience that you would not find in any other University in Russia. Now, at the end of the first week, it’s a good time to check what have the new students done so far. Continue reading

Contact information:
Alexander Zolotarev,
Skoltech Press Secretary
Tel. +7 (495) 280 14 81 ext.32-62

Presenting growth and progress: 2nd Annual Electrochemical Energy Storage Workshop was held in Skoltech

IMG_5470On July 18-19 Skoltech hosted the second Annual Workshop “Electrochemical Energy Storage: Current Progress and Future Opportunities”. The workshop was arranged by the Center for Electrochemical Energy Storage (CEE), which is a collaboration between Skoltech, MIT and Moscow State University (MSU). Yesteryear the workshop was held in MSU, and this is the first time that Skoltech hosts it. Continue reading

Contact information:
Alexander Zolotarev,
Skoltech Press Secretary
Tel. +7 (495) 280 14 81 ext.32-62

2nd Annual Workshop “Electrochemical Energy Storage: Current Progress and Future Opportunities”

Center for Electrochemical Energy Storage (CEE)

Skoltech/MIT/MSU Joint Collaboration

2nd Annual Workshop

“Electrochemical Energy Storage: Current Progress and Future Opportunities”

July 18, 2016

Location: Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology

K. J. Stevenson, Carl Thompson, and Alexei Khokhlov, Organizers

The Center for Electrochemical Energy Storage (CEE) will host their 2nd Annual electrochemistry workshop entitled “Electrochemical Energy Storage: Current Progress and Future Opportunities”. The CEE is a collaboration between the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Moscow State University (MSU). This second workshop, featuring scientists and researchers from these universities and institutes, will discuss key issues that hinder advances in advanced energy storage technologies. For instance, multi-ion batteries have the potential of significantly increased energy densities and high power operation. Organic batteries offer the possibility of higher energy densities, as well as creation of batteries with reduced weight. Integrated, regenerative fuel cell and electrolysis systems provide fuel generation and energy storage as well as carbon neutral electricity generation. Several different perspectives will be presented from experts covering areas including the development of new approaches to synthesis of materials, computational materials design, characterization of materials (including innovations in in situ characterization of electrochemical processes), and device prototyping.

For additional information on this workshop, visit the CEE website at http://crei.skoltech.ru/cee or contact us the organizers via email ,

Workshop Program

Contact information:
Alexander Zolotarev,
Skoltech Press Secretary
Tel. +7 (495) 280 14 81 ext.32-62

More Competitive, More Diverse, More Innovative: Skoltech rings in fourth Academic Year

Prof Ed Crawley ringing the bell as Skoltech marks the opening of acaemic year - the fourth in the innovation focused university's history.

Prof Ed Crawley ringing the bell as Skoltech marks the opening of acaemic year – the fourth in the innovation focused university’s history (click on image to enlarge)

“We are dreaming big”, said Skoltech provost Keith Stevenson to a crowd of visibly excited students. “Which is why you will be tested tremendously and continuously.” Gathered for the opening of the academic year ceremony, and the launch of their innovation-focused program at Skoltech, the students listened, and smiled, and applauded.

‘Knowledge Day’ – or День Знаний in Russian – is a special day in Russia. All across the vast country, students and professors celebrate the new school year. Following local tradition, Skoltech president Ed Crawley rang a bell. It was the fourth time that the MIT professor led the ceremony, and the first time he was presiding over the festivities at Skoltech’s new building. 123 postgrads from 25 countries have begun their journey at Skoltech, the biggest and most diverse cohort of students in the university’s short history .

Crawley mentioned in his address the increasing competition between prospective students for spots with the Moscow based innovation-focused university. “This was the most competitive selection process we ever had”, he said.

“We received over ten applications for each position. Now we can focus again on our main responsibility: to learn and teach and discover.”

He reflected on the “enormous growth” of the institution in a relatively short space of time: The first bell-ringing ceremony was held at MIT in front of the inaugural intake of 20 or so students and a handful of professors. Two or three years from now, he said, the university will boast more than 100 professors, and about 600 students working and studying in state of the art labs and facilities in Skoltech’s new building.

Sergey Muratov, a master’s student with Skoltech’s interdisciplinary IT program, told the audience “that my main advice is to engage in as little self-questioning as possible – and start acting. You, the new students, are intelligent. You can make a change. Don’t waste your most productive years on doubts.”

Text: David Nowak and Ilan Goren

Photos: Vitaly Shustikov and Vlada Kuligina

Contact information:
Alexander Zolotarev,
Skoltech Press Secretary
Tel. +7 (495) 280 14 81 ext.32-62

From Facial Recognition to DNA Editor, Researchers File New Patents

Face recognition and gaze correction are growing fields in IT. Image courtesy of Fraunhofer Face Finder, Flickr

Prof. Lempitsky’s patent refers to face recognition and gaze correction are growing fields in IT. Image courtesy of Fraunhofer Face Finder, Flickr

Researchers at Skoltech filed three new patent applications in Russia and internationally through the university’s Knowledge Transfer Office (KTO). The technologies and methods developed relate to fields as diverse as computer vision, DNA editing and calibration systems. The applications reflect the university’s multidisciplinary and cross-cutting nature and its core mission: produce innovative science that impacts society and the economy.

Text: Ilan Goren

The first application relates to a gaze correction method and machine learning. It was filed in March as a national Russian patent application by Prof Victor Lempitsky, who heads the institute’s computer vision group, and Daniil Kononenko, a PhD student.

Their method addresses the well-known “gaze” problem in videoconferencing. The problem results from the disparity between  a user’s own web camera and the on-screen image of the other person. When you are video-chatting with somebody, you might choose to look straight into the webcam to make an impression of looking into the other person’s eyes, but then you would  miss everything that is happening on screen. On the other hand, you can watch the screen, but then the other side experiences the deeply unnatural feeling of talking to a person who is looking elsewhere.

To address the problem, Lempitsky and Kononenko developed a method that edits webcam images in real-time, ‘redirecting’ the gaze and reestablishing eye-to-eye contact. The method is applicable to previously unseen people and can run on a standard laptop with a standard web camera.

Lempitsky explains that “many people perceive the inability to look ‘eye-to-eye’ during video conferences as a big drawback. For those users, this patent application and subsequent commercialization will make videoconferencing more similar to real offline conversation.”

CRISPR, also known as the DNA editor, attracts the attention of many researchers, including Skoltech's Konstantin Severinov. Image courtesy of Wikipedia, under Creative COmmons license

CRISPR, also known as the DNA editor, attracts the attention of many researchers, including Skoltech’s Konstantin Severinov. Image courtesy of Wikipedia, under Creative COmmons license

More recently, Prof Konstantin Severinov of Skoltech’s Data-Intensive Biomedicine and Biotechnology research center and biomed student Sergey Shmakov filed, jointly with MIT professor Feng Zhang, a patent application for a Class 2 CRISPR-Cas system. This work on the so called DNA editor, dubbed ‘the biggest biotech discovery of the century’ by publications such as Quanta Magazine and MIT Technology Review, is a collaboration between Skoltech, MIT, and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Severinov explains that “the CRISPR-Cas9 technology is revolutionizing life sciences and has created a field of genomic editing and engineering. Sergey Shmakov, a graduate student jointly supervised by Eugene Koonin at NIH and myself, has predicted several completely new CRISPR-Cas systems whose biotechnological potential is currently being evaluated in the Zhang lab. Stay tuned for exciting results in the near future!”

Thirdly, a team led by Dmitry Kirsanov (ITMO) and supported by Skoltech’s Translational Research and Innovation Program submitted an international patent application (under PCT) for a calibration system and method. The project involved the development of a multi-sensor device and software for instrumental toxicity assessment in environmental monitoring.

Patent applications are crucial building blocks in Skoltech’s effort to “develop its IP portfolio, attract research sponsorships and become one of the most impactful universities in the world”, says the KTO’s manager Sergey Ulyakhin. “The ultimate goal is to bring more benefit for the general public through licensing the technologies to companies, either startups or industry leaders, for commercialization.”

A group led by Dmitry Kirsanov (left) and supported by the Skoltech Translational Research and Innovation Program submitted a PCT patent application titled Calibration system and method.

A group led by Dmitry Kirsanov (left) and supported by the Skoltech Translational Research and Innovation Program submitted a PCT patent application titled Calibration system and method.

 

 

 

Contact information:
Alexander Zolotarev,
Skoltech Press Secretary
Tel. +7 (495) 280 14 81 ext.32-62