Syndem, LLC

Power systems are going through a paradigm change. Centralized large generating facilities are being replaced with numerous distributed, incompatible, non-synchronous and relatively small renewable or alternative power plants, plug-in EVs, and energy storage units. Moreover, the majority of loads are expected to actively regulate system stability as well. This paradigm change, widely known as the democratization of power systems, is comparable to the great historical event of personal computers replacing mainframes or republics replacing monarchies.  

Syndem LLC is a Chicago-based start-up pioneering the development of technologies that empower all power electronics-interfaced suppliers and loads to behave like virtual synchronous machines (VSM, also called cyber synchronous machines) so that they can seamlessly integrate with the grid to actively take part in the regulation of system frequency and voltage, in the same way as conventional synchronous machines do. This does not only allow generating facilities to meet the requirement of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to provide primary frequency response but also allow converter-fed loads to provide primary frequency response as well. This will reduce/defer the infrastructure investment on transmission and distribution networks, reduce the required reserve in power systems, release the communication infrastructure from low-level control and open up the prospect of achieving autonomous power systems without relying on information and communication systems.  The company develops enabling technologies for seamless integration of renewables, EVs, energy storage and flexible loads, which can be applied to various industrial sectors (e.g. wind, solar, EV, energy storage, motor drives, and IT equipment), home appliances (e.g. TV, fridge/freezers, washing machines, and air-conditioning) and educational kits. 

Our Mission
To harmonize power system players and realize synchronized and democratized (SYNDEM) smart grids worldwide, via operating power electronic converters on the supply side, inside the network and on the load side as virtual synchronous machines (VSM). 

Our Vision
To Make Power Systems Worldwide Stable, Reliable, Secure, and Sustainable.

Our Philosophy
We believe in Simplicity: One for All and All for One.

  • One Goal: Sustainability
  • One Mechanism: Synchronization and Democratization (SYNDEM)
  • One Principle: Harmony
  • One Index for Actions: Minimum Usage of Resources


The Founder

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Dr. Qing-Chang Zhong is an IEEE Fellow and an IET Fellow. He holds the Max McGraw Endowed Chair Professor in Energy and Power Engineering and Management at Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, USA. He was educated at Imperial College London (PhD, 2004, awarded the Best Doctoral Thesis Prize), Shanghai Jiao Tong University (PhD, 2000), Hunan University (MSc, 1997), and Hunan Institute of Engineering (Diploma, 1990).

He served as a Distinguished Lecturer for IEEE Power Electronics Society, IEEE Control Systems Society, and IEEE Power and Energy Society. He (co-)authored four research monographs: Power Next Generation Smart Grids (Wiley-IEEE Press, 2020), Control of Power Inverters in Renewable Energy and Smart Grid Integration (Wiley-IEEE Press, 2013, translation in Chinese), Robust Control of Time-Delay Systems (Springer-Verlag, 2006), and Control of Integral Processes with Dead Time (Springer-Verlag, 2010).

He proposed the SYNDEM grid architecture for the next-generation smart grids based on the synchronization mechanism of synchronous machines, which unifies and harmonizes the interface and interaction of power system players with the grid to achieve autonomous operation without relying on communication networks. This line of research has been featured by IEEE Power Electronics Magazine as a cover story, by Energy News Network as Game Changer for Grid, by IEEE Spectrum as a vision for a harmonious grid, and by IEEE PES Task Force on Primary Frequency Control as the Path to the Future.

He is truly globalized. Before relocating to Chicago, he spent about 14 years in the UK, as Research Associate at Imperial College London, Senior Lecturer at University of Glamorgan and University of Liverpool, Chair Professor in Control Engineering at Loughborough University, and Chair Professor in Control and Systems Engineering at The University of Sheffield, and one year in Israel at Technion -- Israel Institute of Technology as a postdoctoral researcher. He delivered 200+ invited talks in 20+ countries, including delivering a semi-plenary talk on SYNDEM smart grids at the 20th IFAC World Congress, which is the world's largest conference in control and systems engineering.

He served on the Steering Committee of IEEE Smart Grid and is a Vice-Chair of IFAC TC on Power and Energy Systems. He was a Senior Research Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering/Leverhulme Trust, UK (2009-2010) and the UK Representative to the European Control Association (2013-2015). He served as an Associate Editor for IEEE Trans. on Automatic Control, IEEE Trans. on Power Electronics, IEEE Trans. on Industrial Electronics, IEEE Trans. on Control Systems Technology, IEEE Journal of Emerging and Selected Topics in Power Electronics, IEEE Access, and European Journal of Control. He also served as grant reviewers for funding bodies from USA, UK, China, Singapore, Finland, Kuwait, Italy, Netherlands, Israel and other countries.

His current research focuses on control and systems theory, power electronics, and the seamless integration of both to address fundamental challenges in energy and power systems.

Dr. Zhong's vision is to holistically tackle three global challenges:

1) Climate Change, through large-scale utilization of renewable energy;

2) Grid Stability and Security, through his synchronized and democratized (SYNDEM) grid architecture and technologies; and

3) Energy Freedom, through empowering billions of people with access to low-cost clean electricity.

Here is a version written by Keith Schneider, a New York Times correspondent since 1982.

Zhong did not advance to the uppermost echelons of global energy innovation by privilege of birth or happy accident. Raised in a rural area of Sichuan, China, his family was poor. His prospects for attending a university were slim. For this reason, his family sent him to a technical secondary school in Xiangtan instead of high school. Having his trajectory pointed in that direction for him, his chances of getting a college education were practically zero.

During the technical school, though, Zhong excelled and was promoted to attend college-level courses. After graduation, he began his career as a technician. He soon started his first entrepreneurial endeavour by filing for a patent in 1991. Zhong successfully commercialized it --- manufactured and sold 120 units quickly. The invention stirred enough market interest that the radio station of Xiangtan City promoted the product for one month for free.

Zhong realized that he could achieve even more than he thought and developed these six words as his mantra. Control yourself. Challenge yourself. Excel yourself.

In 1994, Zhong returned to university to study for a Masters degree. One of the entrance requirements was passing a national exam that included knowledge of English. His first foreign language was Japanese, so learning English was nearly Mission Impossible. He tried unsuccessfully to find an English tutor, but in the end he taught himself. He mastered the language portion and was admitted to Hunan University, the best institution of higher learning in the province, with the highest total score among all applicants to the university that year.

In 1997, Zhong temporarily left his wife, Sue, and his one-year old daughter in Hunan and went to Shanghai to earn a PhD degree. After receiving his doctorate in 2000, Dr. Zhong went to Israel for a postdoctoral position. This time, he was accompanied by his family.

After completing the contract in Israel, the Zhongs moved to England to accept an offer at Imperial College London for a second postdoctoral position. Dr. Zhong envisioned to become a full professor in 10 years. In order to accomplish that goal he studied at night for a second PhD degree while working as a postdoctoral researcher by day. Nine years later, Dr. Zhong was appointed to Chair Professor in Control Engineering at Loughborough University.

Just as important is what occurred two years ago. He made a breakthrough in his research and invented the synchronverter, the first-generation virtual synchronous machine. He knew this was revolutionary. While advancing the research, including building a $5 million lab at The University of Sheffield, he started exploring various ways for commercialization.

Dr. Zhong eventually realized that the best prospects for this lay across the ocean and launched the Go Global initiative. After nearly 14 years of work in the UK, he decided to move one more time, this time to the U.S. He was recruited to Chicago, a global hub, where he assumed Max McGraw Endowed Chair Professor in Power and Energy Engineering and Management at Illinois Institute of Technology.

After settling down, Dr. Zhong founded Syndem LLC in 2017. The company focuses on developing virtual synchronous machines to accelerate large-scale adoption of distributed energy resources and to make power systems autonomous without relying on communication networks. Within one year, he led his team to several achievements. Dr. Zhong accomplished the rare -- almost impossible -- task of leading his team to nearly break even in their first year while launching two products and securing contracted revenue for another year of operation.

Zhong lives in a Chicago suburb with Sue, herself an engineer, and their two daughters. Sue is a collaborating partner and engineer in Syndem. The older of their two daughters, Rui, now works for a top investment bank in the green technology sector and an accomplished visual artist. The younger, Lisa, is an energetic reader, dancer, and gymnast, eagerly awaiting attending high school in the U.S. She read over 800 books in 2018.

Advisors

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David Baker

David E. Baker is President, Fremont St. Associates, Executive Director, America's Urban Campus, Managing Director, Smart Grid Cluster. Through his consulting firm, Mr. Baker oversees the operations of a consortium of over 20 of Chicago's universities and colleges, whose mission is to promote Chicago as a global destination for higher education. He also manages one of 11 U.S. Small Business Administration regional innovation clusters, focused on supporting start-ups in the grid modernization space.

Mr. Baker served as Vice President for External Affairs, Illinois Institute of Technology from 1995 to 2016.  He was responsible for the University’s governmental relations, marketing and communications, and trustee relations. He managed all university strategic plans from 1993 through 2009. He helped to create the Perspectives Charter Schools/IIT Math & Science Academy.

Since 2001 he worked to create the University Technology Park at IIT (UTP) of which he served as founding Executive Director from 2006 to 2016. UTP received the Emerging Technology Park of the Year Award in 2014, from the Association of University Research Parks. Mr. Baker received the 2016 Career Achievement Award from AURP for his leadership in the technology park field. He conducted workshops, seminars and consultancies on tech ecosystem development in Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Croatia, Trinidad and China.

Prior to joining the University, Mr. Baker served as President of The Illinois Coalition, whose mission is to strengthen the Illinois economy through science and technology.  From 1980 to 1989, Mr. Baker served as the Executive Vice President of the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, the state’s largest business advocacy organization.  Mr. Baker served as the 2012-2013 President of the Association of University Research Parks. He served as Chair of the Heidelberg Club International of Chicago from 2008 to 2015. He is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago. Mr. Baker holds an M.A. from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and an A.B. in History with a minor in Economics from Stanford University. He is married, has two children and lives in Chicago.

 

 

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Robert C.W. Owen

Robert Owen, Director of Essaimage Associates Ltd,  graduated from the University of Hertfordshire, UK (then called “The Hatfield Polytechnic”) in 1978, with a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. He became a Chartered Engineer and full member of the Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET, formerly the IEE) in 1985.


His first employment was in the military electronics field, working for Raytheon. After a short period designing power supplies for London Transport, he joined the Technical Sales Department of Texas Instruments (TI)’s UK Semiconductor Division. Across the next 15 years, he held Sales and Marketing positions for Automotive, Consumer, Computer and Industrial markets. He built TI’s first pan-European support organization and in 1994 he accepted TI’s invitation to build a new programme – The European University Programme – and ran this for TI until 2011. Across this period he became known to more than 3,000 Lecturers and Researchers across the region. The model he built for this program became TI's template worldwide, and it now spans the globe. In Europe today there are 1,000+ TI-based DSP labs, used by circa 34,000 students every year, and he led the expansion of the programme to encompass Analog, RF, and Microcontroller technologies. He has personally visited more than 650 Universities around the world.
 
Robert now has two major clients:

  • RS Components, the world's largest distributor of electronics and maintenance products, through his development of "RS University" - a global programme that enables Lecturers to harness RS's design tools and component support.
  • Imagination Technologies, the IP company famous for its PowerVR GPUs and MIPS CPUs. He has established the "Imagination University Programme," which offers access to a current MIPS processor core for the teaching of Computer Architecture and SoC: System on Chip Design.

Robert is also actively involved in student recruitment and training for companies including Imagination, EnOcean, Caterva and Conrad. He has developed a one-year model for Internships that enables smaller and start-up companies to develop a pipeline of talent.

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Phill Cartwright

Dr. Phill Cartwright is NED/Chairman at The Center for Modelling and Simulation, NED at The Manufacturing Technology Center, and the former CTO of The High Value Manufacturing Catapult UK. The Catapult combines the strengths of seven existing centers across key manufacturing processes, with over 140 million pounds of government investment and investment matched by private industry to revitalize the UK manufacturing industry. Before that, he was Director of Engineering Excellence Group, Laing O’Rourke, the renowned international engineering and construction company, responsible for the company’s Electrical Power, Control and Data Systems Research, Development and Delivery.


He has an impressive track record of senior roles in advanced engineering and manufacturing, including six years as Head of Electrical Power and Control Systems at Rolls-Royce. He has successfully managed PNL accounts >650m pounds and attracted government gearing for manufacturing, research and technology programmes >350m pounds. He has developed, captured and delivered significant and successful power systems, nuclear and/or aerospace projects in Europe, India, China, Uruguay and Brazil.


Phill combines a strong commercial engineering background, with sustainable supply chain development experience and a clear strategic vision.


He was the founding chair of the Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET) Power Sector Executive and has previously been an active member and adviser to the UK Government’s Nuclear Industry Council. He is a Fellow of The IET, an active visiting Professor in Energy Systems at The University of Manchester and The University of Strathclyde, the author of numerous technical journal papers, co-author of two books and several patents in mathematical modelling, control and integration of energy systems.


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Zhen(yu) Yu

Dr. Zhen(yu) Yu is currently Systems Engineering manager for the C2000 MCU business at Texas Instruments, Inc. (TI). Zhen joined TI in 1995 as an Applications Engineer on the Industrial and Automotive team in Automotive MCU, the team that evolved into today's C2000 MCU business overtime. Zhen contributed significantly to the definition, development and support of the first and later C2000 MCU products. Zhen is also instrumental to C2000's worldwide successes, especially the successes in China and Asia. He took an expat assignment in Shanghai from 2003 to 2006 and contributed significantly to C2000 business wins and strategy then and later. Zhen also contributed significantly to C2000's application technology development and strategy. He developed some of the earliest C2000 application reports, software and demos. He provided critical technical and business support to C2000's earliest and later customers. In his role as digital power systems team manager, digital power and motor control systems team manager and systems engineering manager for C2000, he led the development of a long list of reference designs and EVMs, and was critical in the formation and implementation of C2000's application strategy. Zhen was also C2000 Business Development Manager for China, Asia and worldwide and C2000 Worldwide End-Equipment marketing manager, contributing significantly to C2000's business development and EE successes.

Zhen was elected Member Group of Technical Staff (MGTS) and Senior Member Technical Staff (SMTS) in the early years at TI and is now Emeritus SMTS.

Zhen received his Doctor of Science Degree in Systems Science and Mathematics in 1995 from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Behang University in Beijing. Zhen worked at Beihang's Third Research Group as a Research Engineer from 1985 to 1989.


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Jim MacInnes

Jim MacInnes is CEO & Co-owner of Crystal Mountain, a 1500-acre four-season resort near Traverse City, Michigan. Crystal was named the #1 Resort in the Midwest in 2005 by the readers of SKI magazine and the resort's golf school is rated as a Top 25 golf school in the nation by the readers of Golf Magazine.

During his tenure at Crystal Mountain, Mr. MacInnes and his wife, Chris, have developed nearly $100 million of resort and recreational real estate projects. He was also involved in creating and managing Michigan Assurance Limited, a Bermuda-based captive insurance company that provided risk management and insurance services for a dozen hotels and resorts. His project development/engineering consulting company Renewable Power Solutions provided project development services for a proposed $175 Million Mancelona Renewable Resources biomass plant designed to power 31,500 homes.

Prior to joining the resort, Mr. MacInnes was Director of Venture Management for Irvine, California based Ultrapower Incorporated where he was involved in investor relations and financing of renewable energy power generation projects developed, co-owned and operated by the Company. He also served as Project Development Manager and Lead Control Systems Engineer on commercial power plant projects.

Jim served as a vice chair of the IEEE USA Energy Policy Committee in 2014 and is the vice chair of the West Michigan IEEE PES/PELS chapter. He is a Life Senior Member of IEEE and a member of IEEE PES and PELS societies. 

He was appointed by Governors Snyder and Whitmer as Chair of the Michigan Utility Consumer Participation Board. He is a board member of Fifth Third Bank - West Michigan and a past board member of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. He was appointed by Governor Engler to serve on the Michigan Ski Area Safety Board and was appointed by Governor Granholm to serve on Great Lakes Offshore Wind Council. He and his wife, Chris, were recipients of the 1998 Governor's Award for Arts and Culture. As a result of his clean energy advocacy work, Mr. MacInnes was also named as one of 16 Green Leaders in Michigan in 2010 by the Detroit Free Press; Energy Innovator of the Year in 2015 by the Michigan Agency for Energy; and to the Energy Innovators Hall of Fame in 2019 by the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council.

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Tony Lakin

Tony started his career in 1970 as a Development Engineer for Marconi Space & Defence Systems (Stanmore). In 1971-1979, he led the Control & Instrumentation Group of Power Plant Division & Advanced Technology Division for NEI Clarke Chapman. In 1979-1998, he was the Managing Director of Micro Tech Ltd, part of the Nada Consulting Group. He became the Managing Director of the Nada Consulting Group in 1998 and led a Buy In Management Buy Out (BIMBO) of the Nada Consulting Group with venture capital help from Nat West Venture Capital and Gartmore. The Nada Consulting Group changed its name to I-Power Ltd in 2000, which was then purchased by Turbo Genset PLC in 2001 with him as the R & D Director. In 2002, I-Power acquired the IPR and service contracts from Rolls Royce Industrial Controls. In 2006 Turbo Genset changed the operating name to Turbo Power Systems Ltd (TPS) and changed it’s listing onto the AIM market. In 2010, TPS was acquired by the Brazilian engineering company VSE, a subsidiary of Vale Engineering, the major Brazilian mining company. In 2013, Mr Lakin retired as an executive director and gave up the R & D Director of TPS.


In nearly 5 decades of his career, Tony has been responsible for numerous projects, e.g., data logging systems for IBM, film lighting systems used in films including Shakespeare In Love, James Bond, Harry Potter and The Saint with an Oscar for technical innovation, one of the first DFIG wind turbine controllers, the first UK G59 approved PV grid-linked inverter systems, and four inverter drive systems for Boeing (Dreamliner) 787 aircraft.


Tony is the UK expert on IEC Technical Committee TC82/WG6. He is a representative on the BSI committees for Photovoltaic Energy Systems, GEL/82 and Electrical Energy Storage ESL/120, and was one of the experts originally involved in writing G77, the first low power generation grid connection standard. Furthermore, Tony is a member of the UK G59 frequency response technical sub-group, looking at the potential future problems with grid frequency response and connection standards.

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Aris Karcanias

Aris Karcanias is a Senior Managing Director and Co-leader of the Global Clean Energy practice at FTI Consulting. He has over 15 years of consulting experience in the clean energy sector with a focus on renewables, energy storage, and electric vehicle industries, having been recognized by ALM's Consulting Magazine as one of 2018's Global Leaders in Consulting.

Aris has a strong technical engineering background with extensive experiences on corporate strategy formulation, renewable energy technology, strategic market entry and exit, mergers and acquisitions, dispute resolution, due diligence reviews, and energy policy development and impact assessments. Aris has managed a number of large, cross-country projects and has worked with clients across the world and throughout the energy value chain including emerging technology companies, manufacturers, environmental organizations, utilities, developers, energy companies, investors, and government agencies.

Additionally, Aris resides on the Investment Committee at SUSI Partners, a Zurich based clean energy infrastructure fund. Aris is regarded as a leading industry figure and has authored several widely cited publications. He is often quoted in prominent media outlets on energy issues and frequently speaks at, or chairs energy conferences.

He holds an MPhil, Engineering for Sustainable Development, from the University of Cambridge and an M.Eng., Electrical and Control Systems, University of Warwick.



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Gene Frantz

Gene Frantz is widely regarded as the Digital Signal Processing (DSP) visionary or The Father of DSP. Along with a group of engineers, they delivered the TMS5100, TI's first speech synthesis chip, which was the centerpiece of the Speak & Spell, a wildly successful educational consumer electronics product that was years ahead of its time. In the mid-1970s few believed it was possible to implement real-time digital processing technology in an integrated circuit. Now the technology is found in every device that accesses the Internet and plays media - not to mention many others.

He holds 45 patents in the area of memories, speech, consumer products and DSP. He has written more than 50 Papers and articles and continually presents at Universities and conferences worldwide. He is also among industry experts widely quoted in the media due to his tremendous knowledge and visionary view of DSP solutions. He spent 39 years at Texas Instruments and rose to the role of Principal Fellow - the top rung of the technical ladder and an honor that only 4 people before him enjoyed during the history of the company.

He is a recipient of the IEEE Millennium Medal and a Fellow of IEEE.

He received his BSEE from University of Central Florida in 1971, MSEE from Southern Methodist University in 1977, and MBA from Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business in 1982.