Parker, Robert Reed (2011-05). Technology Characterization Models and Their Use in Designing Complex Systems. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon


  • When systems designers are making decisions about which components or technologies to select for a design, they often use experience or intuition to select one technology over another. Additionally, developers of new technologies rarely provide more information about their inventions than discrete data points attained in testing, usually in a laboratory. This makes it difficult for system designers to select newer technologies in favor of proven ones. They lack the knowledge about these new technologies to consider them equally with existing technologies. Prior research suggests that set-based design representations can be useful for facilitating collaboration among engineers in a design project, both within and across organizational boundaries. However, existing set-based methods are limited in terms of how the sets are constructed and in terms of the representational capability of the sets. The goal of this research is to introduce and demonstrate new, more general set-based design methods that are effective for characterizing and comparing competing technologies in a utility-based decision framework. To demonstrate the new methods and compare their relative strengths and weaknesses, different technologies for a power plant condenser are compared. The capabilities of different condenser technologies are characterized in terms of sets defined over the space of common condenser attributes (cross sectional area, heat exchange effectiveness, pressure drop, etc.). It is shown that systems designers can use the resulting sets to explore the space of possible condenser designs quickly and effectively. It is expected that this technique will be a useful tool for system designers to evaluate new technologies and compare them to existing ones, while also encouraging the use of new technologies by providing a more accurate representation of their capabilities. I compare four representational methods by measuring the solution accuracy (compared to a more comprehensive optimization procedure's solution), computation time, and scalability (how a model changes with different data sizes). My results demonstrate that a support vector domain description-based method provides the best combination of these traits for this example. When combined with recent research on reducing its computation time, this method becomes even more favorable.

publication date

  • May 2011