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Research Papers: Design Automation

A Computer Architecture for the Automatic Design of Modular Systems With Application to Photovoltaic Reverse Osmosis

[+] Author and Article Information
Amy M. Bilton

Department of Mechanical
and Industrial Engineering,
University of Toronto,
5 King's College Road,
Toronto, ON M5S 3G8, Canada
e-mail: bilton@mie.utoronto.ca

Steven Dubowsky

Fellow ASME
Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Room 3-469a,
77 Massachusetts Avenue,
Cambridge, MA 02139
e-mail: dubowsky@mit.edu

Contributed by the Design Automation Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received November 13, 2013; final manuscript received June 10, 2014; published online July 21, 2014. Assoc. Editor: Harrison M. Kim.

J. Mech. Des 136(10), 101401 (Jul 21, 2014) (13 pages) Paper No: MD-13-1524; doi: 10.1115/1.4027879 History: Received November 13, 2013; Revised June 10, 2014

Systems such as electronics, cars, computers, and robots are assembled from modular components for specific applications. Photovoltaic reverse osmosis (PVRO) systems, which can be custom-tailored for the water demands and solar properties of particular communities, are an important potential application of modular systems. Clearly, to be financially viable, such systems must be assembled from commercially available components and subsystems (modules). Designing a system from modular components for a specific application is not simple. Even for a relatively small inventory of modular components, the number of possible system configurations that exist is extremely large. For a small community, determining the best system configuration is an overwhelming task due to lack of expertise. This paper presents a modular design architecture that can be implemented on a laptop so nonexperts can configure systems from modular components. The method uses a hierarchy of filters, which can be provided from an expert system, to limit the large design space. Optimization methods and detailed models are then used to configure the location-specific system from the reduced design space. The method is applied here to community-scale PVRO systems and example cases demonstrate the effectiveness of the approach.

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Figures

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Fig. 1

Simple PVRO system

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Fig. 2

Modular design architecture

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Fig. 4

Sample RO topology filters

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Fig. 5

Sample system and graph representation

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Fig. 6

Sample system connection matrix

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Fig. 7

RO system water production for various power inputs

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Fig. 8

Experimental PVRO system

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Fig. 9

System schematic (left) and graph representation (right) of experimental PVRO system

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Fig. 10

Solar radiation input (left) and experimental model verification (right)

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Fig. 11

Inventory for case studies

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Fig. 12

System designed for Cyprus using original inventory (left) and expanded inventory (right)

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