Welcome to the Pangborn Advanced Controls Lab
We are a systems and control lab in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the Pennsylvania State University, directed by Assistant Professor Herschel C. Pangborn. Broadly speaking, we study the science of automated decision-making in systems, optimizing the design and real-time operation (i.e., control) of systems with high societal relevance.
Our research enables new paradigms in the performance, safety, efficiency, and sustainability of energy systems in vehicles and buildings. Key to achieving this objective is our systems-level approach to control and design, which enables coordination across multiple components, timescales, and physical domains. The systems we study include electrified aircraft, hybrid automobiles, and thermal management systems in buildings and vehicles.
In addition to achieving our technological goals, we also train the next generation of engineers to address exigent challenges and opportunities in control theory, energy systems, and sustainability. This inspires our student-centric mentorship of undergraduate and graduate students in research and professional development. Our program is oriented around providing students with the experience and expertise to achieve their career goals following graduation.
PAC Lab Group Photo:
Back row: Jonah, Jason, Jake, Seho, Andrew T.
Front row: Ian, Carly, Andrew I., Dr. Pangborn
Not pictured: Madison
PAC Lab Principal Investigator, Dr. Herschel Pangborn, in front of an experimental testbed developed to support his research
Infrared video showing the storage and transport of thermal energy within a testbed (played faster than real time)
Our systems-based approach intersects three areas:
Modern energy systems are often too complex for decision-making to be governed by a single, centralized controller. We develop hierarchical and distributed control frameworks that employ a network of communicating controllers to coordinate decision-making across multiple components, timescales, and physical domains. Predictive control methods allow these frameworks to take proactive action in optimizing system behavior. We also specialize in the control of systems that exhibit switched dynamic behavior and/or have actuators with discrete modes of operation. Contributions to control theory establish guarantees on performance and safety, while closed-loop experimental application bridges the theory-practice gap. We also investigate systems-level design approaches to optimize architecture selection and component sizing for energy systems.
We employ a combination of physics-based and data-driven methods to capture energy system dynamics across a range of timescales and physical domains. In modeling energy systems, we focus on capturing the most salient dynamic behaviors while retaining a level of computational simplicity that allows models to be leveraged for system-level design and real-time feedback control.
The electrification of energy systems is a technological megatrend that has transformed buildings, aircraft, automobiles, and naval ships. With electrification, the ability to manage thermal and electro-thermal interactions within energy systems has increasingly become the limiting factor of their capabilities. The modeling, design, and control approaches developed by our lab enable increased power/energy density and decreased operating costs, while bringing new paradigms in performance, safety, efficiency, and sustainability.
Honored to be a co-author on this year's American Control Conference Best Student Paper! It was great to present our work on two collaborative projects at ACC.
Congrats to undergraduate researcher Jonah Glunt for graduating with his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering! We're thrilled that Jonah is staying at Penn State to pursue a graduate degree.
Congrats to Carly Dunford for receiving the Boeing Outstanding Mechanical Engineering Junior Award!
Congrats to Jonah Glunt for completing his undergraduate Honors Thesis!
The PAC Lab welcomes Ph.D. student Andrew Thompson from the University of Delaware!
Congrats to Jake Siefert and Seho Park for passing the ME Qualifying Exam!
The latest edition of the "Focus on Materials" bulletin includes a profile on Prof. Pangborn.
Our IEEE TCST paper on hybrid battery balancing systems is now accessible via early access.
The PAC Lab will soon begin work on a $1.5 million collaborative grant to study autonomous hypersonic vehicle flight planning.