Tadashi Fukao, an engineer and inventor who has devoted his career to improving the distribution of electric power through creative power electronics circuits and machine drives, is being honored by IEEE with the 2009 IEEE William E. Newell Power Electronics Award. IEEE is the world's largest technical professional association.
The award, sponsored by the IEEE Power Electronics Society, recognizes Fukao for contributions to the development of cycloconverters and bearingless drives. The award will be presented on 24 September 2009 at the IEEE Energy Conversion Congress and Exhibition in San Jose, Calif.
One of the most well-known engineers in the field of power electronics, Fukao began his career researching reactive power and harmonics generated by electric power conversion. He is best known for his work on super high-speed drives and bearingless drives. He also studied high-frequency cycloconverters, which convert 50-Hz commercial energy into 400- or 500-Hz electrical power, and proposed generator and distribution systems based on the cycloconverters with reduced physical dimensions. Early in his career, high-speed drives were not well understood or accepted, but the impact of. Fukao's efforts can be seen in today's acceptance of high rotational speed drives used in hybrid vehicles, mobile power generators and vacuum cleaners.
In the late 1980s, Fukao began his research to develop bearingless motors to overcome the problems that occur when motors with bearings operate at super high speeds. A bearingless motor is a motor with a magnetically integrated bearing function- a rotating machine in which the motor and the magnetic bearing winding systems are integrated in the same stator core and the machine itself can generate the magnetic force supporting the rotor without separate bearing mechanisms. Bearingless motors allow alternating current motor drives to be used in space applications, harsh environments, food and pharmacy processes and very high- and low-atmosphere environments where bearing maintenance and use of lubrication oil would present problems.
An IEEE Fellow, Fukao holds 35 patents and has published more than 500 papers. He served as an IEEE Industry Applications Society Distinguished Lecturer from 2000-2001, and was the president of Institute of Electrical Engineers of Japan from 2003 to 2004. He obtained his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees all from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan, in 1964, 1966 and 1969, respectively. Fukao was a research associate, associate professor and professor while with the Tokyo Institute of Technology from 1968 to 2001, and professor with the Musashi Institute of Technology from 2001 to 2006. He is currently an independent consultant to the Tokyo University of Science and chairman of the board of a venture company specializing in bearingless drives that was founded in May 2008 based on his patents.