Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

Faculty Candidate Seminar


A Modular Design Architecture for Application to Photovoltaic Reverse Osmosis Systems


Dr. Amy Bilton


Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 11:00:00 AM


MRDC Building, Room 4211


Dr. Bert Bras


Photovoltaic reverse osmosis (PVRO) systems can provide water to many underserved communities. These systems need to be custom-tailored for the water demand, solar insolation, and water characteristics of a specific location. Designing a custom system is challenging due to the complex non-linear behavior of the system, the uncertainty in the energy source, and the enormous number of design choices that need to be made for even a small inventory. A designer with significant expertise is required to tailor a PVRO system for a given location, putting this technology out of reach of many communities. This talk will present a computer-based modular design method that enables non-experts to configure PVRO systems for their community from an inventory of modular components. First, a novel method of modelling PVRO systems using a graph representation will be overviewed. This modelling technique was verified using the MIT Experimental PVRO system. Second, a hierarchical modular design method for PVRO systems will be detailed. This method first employs a number of filters based on fundamental engineering principles to reduce the number of possible configurations. Optimization methods are then used with the graph-based system model to configure a system from the reduced design space. Finally, a new method developed to analyze the reliability of PVRO systems subject to uncertainty in the solar radiation and water demand will be presented.


Amy Bilton is currently a Postdoctoral Associate in the Field and Space Robotics Laboratory at M.I.T. where she is working with NGOs to deploy solar-powered water desalination systems in the developing world. She completed her Ph.D. and M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics at M.I.T. and her B.A.Sc. in Engineering Science, Aerospace Option, from the University of Toronto. Amy has also worked as a Systems Engineer at Pratt and Whitney Canada and Honeywell Aerospace. Her research interests include computer aided design methods, optimization under uncertainty, control system design, energy systems, and design for the developing world.


Refreshments will be served.