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Jinia Roy
September 7, 2023

Focus on new faculty: Jinia Roy is designing the next generation of power converters

Written By: Jason Daley

Many people assume that electricity is just electricity. But it turns out, power is not one size fits all; laptops, EVs, industrial motors, MRI machines and toasters each have different requirements. For machines to use it, electricity needs to be converted from AC to DC, and sometimes vice versa; its voltage and frequency need adjustments; and sometimes its polarity needs to flip. Power converters, or devices that enable these transformations, are critical to a world increasingly powered by electricity.

Thomas A. Lipo Assistant Professor Jinia Roy, who has academic, government and industry research experience, is bringing a broad expertise in power conversion to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Roy, who joined the department in summer 2023, plans to work on ways to make these devices smaller, more efficient, more durable and more powerful.

Roy received her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India, and a master’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur. In 2017, she received her PhD from Arizona State University before heading to the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, for a stint as a postdoctoral researcher and research engineer. In 2020, she joined GE Global Research in Niskayuna, New York, as a power electronics research engineer.

Over that time, she has worked on a wide variety of power conversion projects. During graduate school, she developed new photovoltaic inverters with wide bandgap devices including gallium nitride and silicon carbide. She was able to improve the efficiency and power density of these inverters at higher voltages and developed designs and innovative control schemes that use long-lasting film capacitors to increase the inverters’ lifespans to roughly the same as solar panels. At NREL, she also worked with wide bandgap devices for power converters to improve efficiency and enable modular implementation of power conversion.

At GE, among many projects, Roy focused on pulsed-power converters for MRI machines. MRI systems rely on large and powerful magnets and advanced power converters to develop the controlled and predefined magnetic field gradient essential to the imaging process. Magnetic resonant scanners have demanding requirement for power electronics; to increase MRI image resolution and reduce scan time, engineers need higher power rated converters with improved cost, size, and installation time. By using wide-bandgap materials and improved power converter topology, Roy and her team brought the benefits of lower total costs, better image quality, greater patient comfort and also shrank the size of the system with innovative control.

Roy has also been part of a project exploring novel ways to improve green hydrogen production from renewable sources like offshore windfarms and solar power plants. She has investigated strategies to optimize power conversion from these sources to run the electrolyzers that could produce clean, renewable hydrogen.

At UW-Madison, Roy says she wants to continue with this wide portfolio of research interests and hopes to also work on the power conversion needed within electric vehicles. She also plans to explore other applications where pulsed power technologies are gaining traction like laser, radar, and other industrial processes including water treatment and ozone generation.

She’s also excited to work with WEMPEC, the Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium. “WEMPEC has renowned professors and colleagues you can collaborate with to help you follow your passion,” she says.

Roy says her time in industry has also given her a unique perspective on research, one that will influence her work. “When you’re in a purely research-based organization, you tend to neglect things that are very important for industry, like when it comes to starting a product line, or making your solution to be very cost competitive,” she says. “Being exposed to industry, I can carry that knowledge back to our research and understand what is crucial for industry.”

Top photo by Joel Hallberg