HIGHEST Transformer

The Innovation:
A cleaner, safer, more efficient, and cost-effective medium-voltage distribution transformer

The Team:
Professor of Electrical Engineering Francisco de Leon and alum Saeed Jazebi

The Story:
Most laypeople give little thought to the electricity that they use. Flip a switch, and the light turns on, the washing machine starts, or the blender whirls. But behind the scenes, transformers are at work, reducing the high-voltage electricity being generated at plants across the country to voltages low enough to power our homes and offices without mishap. Transformers are crucial because it would not be very efficient to transmit low-voltage electricity across long distances. Still, the system as it exists is imperfect, and even the high efficiency of today’s transformers leads to energy loss that is estimated to cost some $4 billion every year. Another issue presented by conventional transformers is the necessity of mineral oil, which can leak or, in a worst-case scenario, even cause an explosion.

Francisco de Leon, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Saeed Jazebi, who earned his doctoral degree from the School of Engineering in 2014, have found a way to make medium-voltage distribution transformers cleaner, safer, more efficient, and cost-effective. Their product, the HIGH Efficiency Shielded Toroidal (HIGHEST) Transformer, is made of a continuous steel strip wound into a doughnut shape and wrapped entirely in coils that do not require oiling. An electrostatic shield, gapless construction, and core made of amorphous iron allow the transformer to significantly reduce energy loss — and thus cost.