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Mark Johnson – Power Electronics Director, AEM

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03.08.2022

Mark Johnson – Power Electronics Director, AEM

Q: How long have you worked at Advanced Electric Machines?

MJ: I’ve been here for seven months now, so I’m still fairly new!

Q: Can you give us an insight into your career to date?

MJ: Before coming to Advanced Electric Machines, I worked with a number of universities around the UK. Most recently, I was the Professor of Power Electronics at the University of Nottingham.

I made the change to come to AEM because the company is a young, vibrant technology-led business that has developed a very unique solution for electric propulsion. I was keen to work on and develop this power electronics solution to go along with the electrical machine.

Q: Can you tell us about your job role?

MJ: I oversee the development of power electronic solutions and control solutions for Advanced Electric Machine’s electrical machines products. We offer a wide range of different options, but essentially, we want to get the maximum out of all of the electric machines, and do that in a way that gives the end user maximum flexibility so that they can customise it for each of their individual applications.

Q: What would you say is your proudest professional achievement here so far?

MJ: Oh it’s early days yet! We’re working on new unique control solutions for a particular type of electrical machine – for now I can’t say much more, but keep your ears peeled!

Q: What excites you about working at Advanced Electric Machines?

MJ: For me, working at Advanced Electric Machines is an exciting opportunity to use all of the knowledge and experience that I have gained across over 30 years of working in academia and applying it to AEM’s electrical machines to ensure they perform in the way we want them to. For me, that is one of the motivating factors, as well as seeing the business experience the growth that has seen it become a world leader in this field.

Q: What is the biggest challenge facing PEMD at the moment, and how is AEM trying to solve this?

MJ: In terms of the future for PEMD, one of the biggest challenges that has started to emerge is how to make it sustainable – from an end user perspective, from a manufacturing perspective, and from a supply chain perspective. AEM’s solution doesn’t use permanent magnets, and this is coming on to the road, but we must also consider power electronics, which are built from a disparate mix of materials. These are difficult to recover and recycle. In considering new designs, we must work carefully with our supply chains and make sure that our designs don’t use materials that are difficult to recycle wherever possible. We need to make sure that these materials are easy to dismantle and that we are reducing the amount of material used in general.

One way that we can do this is to integrate the power electronics with the machine in an integrated drive so that it all sits within one housing. In this way, we can get the optimal performance of the machine with the minimum amount of material. This is a win-win situation, as by minimising the use of the material, we are helping to save costs.

This is undoubtedly a big challenge, but it’s one that we’re addressing right now.

Q: Why do you think PhDs should choose to work at Advanced Electric Machines?

MJ: As I said, we are a young and vibrant company with a fantastic, sustainable product. We look towards the future and offer plenty of potential for growth. As I have found, there are lots of opportunities to use the knowledge that a PhD student will have gained in their research in a practical way.

The company itself is innovation-led and technology-led, and we want to make the most out of the ideas of our people. We are looking for young and motivated creative people to join the business, and take their ideas forward and turn them into a real-world product. It is our ambition to grow alongside our people, so we want to use this innovation and become world leaders in these areas.

Q: What qualities do you look for in engineers that are towards the beginning of their careers?

MJ: For me, early career engineers need to be motivated – they really have to want to be an engineer. They must also possess some level of creativity because in this job, they’re going to have to think on their feet and solve problems quite often. Whilst it may seem like a cliché, we’re looking for people that can work independently but also as part of a team.

All of these attributes are important when you consider a product as complex as an electrical machine or an electrical drive.

Q: What will early career engineers get at Advanced Electric Machines that they wouldn’t get anywhere else?

MJ:
AEM offers a unique environment in which early career engineers can develop their careers. Whilst they could go and work at a large company elsewhere, we are working at a very early stage of development. We will one day be a globally leading business, and so there is a very real opportunity for these engineers to be a prominent part of this story. By joining AEM now, they can work with our team to help us develop our vision to become the world’s leading supplier of sustainable electric propulsion systems.

Q: What impact does your contribution make to Advanced Electrical Machines?

MJ: In terms of impact, without power electronics, the machine is quite literally going nowhere. What we’re hoping to do is develop solutions that enable us to get the most out of the machine. The impact of this will be a more efficient and cost-effective overall product for the market, which will of course bring with it greater growth for the business.

On a personal level, I want to see Advanced Electric Machines grow into a world leader during my time here. I want to see the power electronics solutions and ideas that we have come to fruition and be seen as part of an electric propulsion system.

Q: How would you describe the culture here at Advanced Electric Machines?

MJ: The company culture here at Advanced Electric Machines is like a big family – it’s very inclusive and everybody is so welcoming. I would say that the culture enables individuals to thrive because of the support structure employed at the company. There are plenty of senior members of staff that are always available should anyone wish to talk with them on a one-to-one level.

From my perspective, we have a very supportive and helpful environment, particularly for young engineers or newly-qualified graduates.