I was invited by the Department of Energy to participate in their Energy Solar Decathlon...It was a great experience.

Tao Cao is currently working on his thesis, Micro-grid system modeling and optimization to find a way to commercialize micro-grid energy systems for ship applications. “Micro-grid systems on ships face a few unique obstacles because they are off-grid, rely heavily on pollutant-producing ‘bulker fuels’, and experience many environmental challenges due to humidity and weather changes,” Cao explains. His research attempts to address the gaps in micro-grid system research for ship applications while also providing a generalized micro-grid system framework for any application. He hopes to meet this goal using TRNSYS and MATLAB, as well as some coding using FORTRAN language.  

MAXTech and Beyond was a great experience

In addition to his own project, Cao served as a team leader for DOE’s MaxTech and Beyond competition where he helped develop a heat pump dryer. Electric clothes dryers are currently the most commonly used type of clothes dryer in the U.S., but the prototype built by UMD’s team shows potential energy savings of 40%-46%. All of the dedication and hard work paid off; under his guidance, the heat pump dryer won first place. “Afterwards, I was invited by DOE to participate in their Energy Solar Decathlon. “It was a great experience,” Cao said excitedly. For this competition, groups of students worked together to build cost-effective, energy-efficient homes that are comfortable, livable, and attractive. Cao is also working on the Dominion project, which involves designing, modeling, and testing a high efficiency solar cooling system.

Through his involvement in this research, Cao has gained useful skills needed for industry work. With experience in modeling and conducting real experiments, he feels confident in his product development skills and capacity for consulting. As for locations, Cao is flexible. “I would like to stay in the United States for a while before returning to China,” he stated, “but I do miss my family sometimes.”

CEEE is the 'perfect fit' for a student interested in energy engineering

Cao came to the United States in 2012 after studying mechanical engineering at Xi’a Jiao Tong University in Xi’an, Shaanxi, China. His interest in energy engineering made CEEE a perfect fit for him. This allowed him to explore the basics of energy transfer and equipment, problem solving for general engineering issues, and conducting research from the developmental approach.

In his free time, Cao likes reading books written by American authors. “I like seeing how other people view China,” he remarks. He prefers non-fiction, such as biographies and history books. When the weather permits, Cao also enjoys camping, hiking, and visiting national parks. For the past several months, he has also been taking a hip-hop dance class. “It’s a really fun style of dance,” he says with a smile.