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Jason Lai, inventor of energy savings devices, receives Tucker Professorship

March 26, 2012

Jason Lai

Blacksburg, VA

Virginia Tech College of Engineering

Jason Lai, professor of electrical and computer engineering, has received the James S. Tucker Professorship, approved by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors at its March meeting.


The department’s honorifics committee nominated Lai, and Scott Midkiff, the department head endorsed the recommendation.

“Professor Lai has established an outstanding research program in power electronics for energy applications and has created the highly successful Future Energy Electronics Center, ” Midkiff said. “Just this past summer he advised a team of students who won the Grand Prize Award, including $10,000, in the International Future Energy Challenge. Two years prior, one of his student design teams won the first place honors in the Texas Instruments’ Engibous Prize Analog Design Competition, also with a $10,000 cash gift.”

Lai is internationally recognized as an expert in energy efficient electronic technologies for transportation and industrial automation. One of his highly visible products is the development of an efficient power conditioning technology for renewable energy and distributed generation applications. His electric converter developed for fuel cell and solar photovoltaic power generation achieved a peak efficiency of 98.7 percent, representing more than a 50 percent loss reduction. With less power loss, the electronic components will operate in a cooler environment and have longer life expectancy.

Another example of his innovation is his development of a high-efficiency, high-temperature traction motor drive for electric and hybrid electric vehicle applications. This motor drive inverter peak efficiency exceeds 99.2% thus allowing the elimination of an additional or supplemental cooling system that is normally used in a hybrid electric vehicle such as a Toyota Prius, thus enabling cost reductions.

Since arriving at Virginia Tech in 1996, Lai has obtained more than $12 million in external funding, with his personal share at $9.4 million. He has advised 28 master’s students and 11 doctoral candidates to completion. His name appears on 21 patents, and he has published some 60 journal papers.

Prior to joining Virginia Tech in 1996, he was the power electronics lead scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn. A Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Lai received his master’s degree and doctorate in electrical engineering in 1985 and in 1989, respectively, from the University of Tennessee.

James S. Tucker established the Tucker Professorship in 1984. Tucker was a 1934 electrical engineering graduate of Virginia Tech who served in World War II. In 1955 he founded Piedmont Electric Supply Corp. of Charlottesville, Va.  He was the College of Engineering’s Distinguished Alumnus in 1984, a member of the Committee of 100, and the College Advisory Board. He died in 1990.



Lynn Nystrom