Jeroen is Corelab manager at Flanders Make (Belgium), the strategic research centre for the manufacturing industry that stimulates open innovation through excellent research. He heads a research team of 70 people, specialized in improving mechatronic systems of all sizes. He has a PhD in electrical engineering and has been researching electrification for over 10 years. In SEABAT he is project coordinator and thus responsible for the overall outcome of the project.
What was your original motivation to become a researcher?
I have always been fascinated by how things work; already as a child I took things apart which shouldn’t be taken apart. But I put them back together in working order (mostly) and learned valuable lessons on the way. During my studies, it was clear to me that power electronics and electric motors were the future of everything that moves and works. When I finished my studies I did not feel I was done learning about them. My feeling was that when starting in industry, I would learn a lot on the job, but I wanted the learning to be the job. There was so much more to understand. So it was clear that research was the next step and power electronics and electric motors should be my field. I applied for a position as PhD student at my university et voilà. As my basic interest is in understanding how something works, it’s obvious that it should then also do something useful. As such, I did not pursue research for the research but rather to achieve something tangible. During my PhD, I had the opportunity to work together with industry and with research institutes and I was able to establish a concrete outcome. Few years later with SEABAT I’m again working towards a very concrete and tangible result, together with research institutes and industry.
What is your (main) research area today?
Today, my research is still very much focused on and applied to mechatronic systems. There is still a good bond with everything electric and power electronic, as applied in projects on e.g. DC grids and SEABAT, but I’ve been granted the chance to combine them with other relevant fields. Today I can work together with experts in the fields of control, monitoring, autonomous working vehicles and systems engineering, all applied to mechatronics and using its core elements: electrical, mechanical and thermal engineering.
What is the main objective of your team in SEABAT?
Flanders make has two main objectives in SEABAT: 1. The identification of a functional and scalable Hybrid Energy Storage System (HESS) architecture and 2. The (technical) coordination of the overall project and thus its outcome. The first one we tackle from the point of view of Work Package leader of work package 3. We initiated the design challenge for SEABAT’s hybrid energy storage system and are now following up the project to refine the design and work towards the final system architecture. The intent is to define a validated design that can be applied for a variety of ships and fits the requirements thereof. I am taking up the project coordination, together with the coordination team, and in that sense, we are responsible for the overall outcome of the project. Primarily, we have to make sure we deliver proper research results in time and in budget.
What expertise and facilities does your team have to meet those objectives?
Flanders Make stimulates open innovation through excellent research, and brings together companies and research institutions to realize product and production innovations in the vehicle industry, in mechanical engineering and in production environments. That is off course the ideal set of skills to execute and coordinate such a big undertaking as a European research project. We entered the project primarily from our automotive background. For years, we have been involved in the electrification challenges that the automotive industry has gone through. We have the skills to tackle the multidisciplinary research and the labs to validate our results.
Which aspects of your research at SEABAT do you believe are the most innovative and what unique opportunities offers SEABAT to yourself and/or your organisation?
As coordinator, I cannot but highlight the main innovative aspects of the entire project: 1. Modularly combine high-energy & high-power batteries using 2. a DC/DC converter per module to control the overall output of the HESS and 3. (mass) producing these modules using production technology from the automotive sector to make them cheaper. For myself, SEABAT has offered me the opportunity to work together with some amazing people, industries and companies from all over Europe. My research thus far had brought me to interesting places all over the world, but never have I been able to work together so closely with such a diverse and geologically spread group of people for a prolonged period of time.
How do you see the future use of the SEABAT-results and the impact of SEABAT-project in our daily lives?
The results of SEABAT should speed up the transition towards fewer carbon & greenhouse emissions from the maritime industry. While it’s clear that there is a long way to go for SEABAT’s HESS to consistently end up in future ships, I do believe we are taking the right ships in the project to facilitate that. At the end of the project we will have a properly designed battery pack suitable for the industry’s harsh requirements and a pathway for type approval. Even if it is not our exact solution that will be implemented, our results should support others in getting to a better solution faster. We are documenting and descripting not only the end result, but also the path towards it and proving that it can be done. At the same time, we are taking talented researchers to the process of the R&D behind a maritime solution. Both the knowledge developed in the project and stuck in the team’s mind will find it’s way to the industry; that I’m sure off. Furthermore, some industrial partners are directly connected to the project (both in the consortium and in the stakeholder group), which should also facilitate adoption. If anything, SEABAT has the potential to indicate that electrification in the maritime industry is plausible and that significant cost savings are realistic whilst decreasing the impact on our planet. In the end, realizing this mindshift (away from fossils) is the true purpose and that’s something all of us could notice.