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International Journal of Automation and Computing 8(2), May 2011, 185-192

DOI: 10.1007/s11633-011-0572-6

Coordinated Controller Tuning of a Boiler Turbine Unit

with New Binary Particle Swarm Optimization Algorithm
Muhammad Ilyas Menhas1 Ling Wang1 Min-Rui Fei1 Cheng-Xi Ma2
Shanghai Key Laboratory of Power-Station Automation Technology, Shanghai University, Shanghai 200072, PRC
East China Electric Power Design Institute, Shanghai 200063, PRC

Abstract: Coordinated controller tuning of the boiler turbine unit is a challenging task due to the nonlinear and coupling charac-
teristics of the system. In this paper, a new variant of binary particle swarm optimization (PSO) algorithm, called probability based
binary PSO (PBPSO), is presented to tune the parameters of a coordinated controller. The simulation results show that PBPSO can
effectively optimize the control parameters and achieves better control performance than those based on standard discrete binary PSO,
modified binary PSO, and standard continuous PSO.

Keywords: Coordinated control, boiler turbine unit, particle swarm optimization (PSO), probability based binary particle swarm
optimization (PBPSO), controller tuning.

1 Introduction turbine unit is often modeled as a two-input-two-output

(TITO) system. The two inputs are boiler firing rate and
Due to the rapid increase in the use of power for both governor valve position, and the two outputs are electri-
domestic and industrial needs, it is a challenge to meet cal power and throttle pressure. The corresponding control
power demand with the highest reliability and efficiency. system is called a coordinated control system (CCS).
At present, the power system industry is largely relying on A coordinated control system is a complex multi-
hydro and thermal stations. input multi-output (MIMO) system. Generally, multiple
The thermal power plants are among quick and compar- proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controllers in differ-
atively cheap peak load supporting power plants. A boiler ent action modes are used to design the CCS.
turbine unit is a common arrangement in thermal power The PID control was first introduced in the market in
plants to generate electricity, where a boiler is used to pro- 1939 and has remained the most widely used control strat-
duce steam that drives turbo generators to generate elec- egy in process control. The majority of literature reveals
tricity. The control system for the boiler-turbine unit needs that more than 90% of the controllers used in process in-
to meet the requirements such as those listed as follows: dustries are PID controllers and advanced versions of the
PID controller.
1) Output power must be able to follow the demand. The three-term PID controllers provide efficient solutions
2) Throttle pressure must withstand load variations. to the control problems[3,4] . The wide application of PID
control has enforced and sustained research to get best
3) Water level in the drum and steam temperature must out of PID and the search is on to find the next key
be maintained at desired levels to prevent overheating technology or methodology for PID tuning[5,6] .
of drums or flooding and to avoid wet steam from en- It is necessary to tune the controller to find optimal PID
tering turbines or overheating of superheaters due to parameters after a process system is upgraded or a new
the excess temperature. The fuel composition in the system is installed. The most famous classical auto tuning
combustion chamber must meet standards for safety methods include Ziegler-Nichols rules, Cohen Coon method,
and environment protection[1, 2] . and relay feedback methods[7,8] .
An MIMO system comprising nonlinear and coupled
The control of boiler turbine unit is a challenging task terms is more complex than an single-input single-output
due to coupling characteristics of the system and the pro- (SISO) system. The PID parameters tuning for such sys-
cess time delays. Although feed-water control, tempera- tems often involves trial and error methods. The trial and
ture control, and air control systems are not strongly cou- error methods are not only tedious but also rare to reach
pled and can be controlled separately. The throttle pres- the optimal parameters. In order to overcome such diffi-
sure and electric power are strongly coupled. Therefore, a culties in tuning controllers, recently, the trial and error
fully decentralized control cannot meet the stringent control methods have been replaced with many modern computer-
requirements, and it is necessary to incorporate a coordi- automated intelligent methods, such as artificial-neural-
nated controller in thermal power plants. Hence, the boiler networks, fuzzy-logic, and evolutionary computation[9,10] .
Manuscript received September 12, 2010; revised December 23, 2010 The modern intelligent methods can search optimal pa-
This work was supported by Projects of Shanghai Science rameters iteratively for a given objective function.
and Technology Community (No. 10ZR1411800, No. 08160705900,
No. 08160512100), Shanghai University the 11th Five-Year Plan,
The swarm intelligence-based and nature-inspired itera-
211 Construction Project, and Mechatronics Engineering Innovation tive search algorithms, like particle swarm optimization
Group Project from Shanghai Education Commission.
186 International Journal of Automation and Computing 8(2), May 2011

(PSO), ant colony optimization (ACO), and differential evo- score is called a fitness value. The member with the high-
lution (DE), and genetic algorithm (GA) have significantly est score is called global best. Each particle memorizes its
eased the task. However, some methods are easy to imple- previous best position. During the search process, if any
ment, while others are difficult. Moreover, the performance particle gets a higher fitness value, it updates its memory
of each method is not ideal for all applications. and discards the previous. The process is repeated until a
Bhatt et al.[11] used three different optimization algo- predefined termination criterion is reached. After any it-
rithms to identify optimal gains for controller devices in eration, all particles update their positions and velocities
two-area multi-unit automatic generation control problem to achieve better fitness value according to the following
and came up with craziness-PSO showing better perfor- equations:
mance over GA and hybrid PSO algorithms. Zhu et al.[12] k+1 k
verified that chaotic ant swarm (CAS) can outperform GA V(i,j) = w V(i,j) + c1 r1 (pk(i,j) xk(i,j) )+
in optimal PID controller design for an automatic voltage c2 r2 (g(1,j) xk(i,j) ) (1)
regulator (AVR) system.
PSO algorithm is an intelligent computational method
inspired by swarm intelligence and has been widely used in xk+1 k k+1
(i,j) = x(i,j) + V(i,j) (2)
real-world optimization problems[13] . where c1 and c2 are two acceleration coefficients, w is iner-
The PSO algorithm comprises very simple mathemat- tia weight, pk(i,j) is the previous best position in the history
ics and is computationally cheaper, but it performs well. k
of each particle at iteration k, g(i,j) is the best position as-
It has rapidly progressed over recent years and has many sociated with the best particle in the group at iteration k,
versions[13,14] . However, the standard PSO based on real and r1 , r2 [0, 1] are two random numbers.
numbers suffers from trapping into local optimum and pre-
mature convergence. The continuous PSO algorithm can- 2.2 Discrete binary (DBPSO) algorithm
not solve certain optimization problems.
In 1997, Kennedy and Eberhart introduced a discrete
In 1997, Kennedy and Eberkart[15] further extended the
version of the PSO. Their aim was to tackle combinatorial
PSO to discrete domain to tackle the combinatorial op-
optimization problems with this version of the PSO algo-
timization problems. The discrete version of PSO called
rithm. In DBPSO, particle positions are represented by
discrete binary PSO (DBPSO) uses binary numbers. The
binary bits of appropriate length. In DBPSO, velocity up-
binary PSO can handle binary, discrete, and certain con-
date equation (1) is used to update the pseudo-probability
tinuous problems effectively as the binary PSO can escape
of any bit of particle position, while the actual probability
from trapping into local optimum. The DBPSO algorithm
S [0, 1] is determined by a sigmoid function as
is more flexible and has extensive applications.
Shayeghi et al.[16] used an improved discrete PSO 1
S= . (3)
(DPSO) in static transmission network expansion planning (1 + exp(V ))
(STNEP) problem. Unler and Murat[17] used DBPSO for
Now, a comparison between S and a random number r
binary classification problem.
[0, 1] will determine a bit as
This paper is mainly focused on description of new prob-
ability based binary PSO (PBPSO) algorithm and its com- 1, if r 6 s
parative performance analysis in identifying controller gains x= (4)
0, else.
of coordinated controller of boiler turbine unit.
The paper is organized as follows. Section 2 describes the Kennedy and Eberhart successfully optimized some func-
proposed PBPSO algorithm and some variants of the exist- tions with the DBPSO algorithm. However, the optimiza-
ing binary PSO0 s. Section 3 presents the implementation tion performance of DBPSO was not satisfactory.
of PBPSO for CCS. Section 4 presents comparison results.
Finally, conclusions are drawn in Section 5. 2.3 Modified discrete binary PSO
(MBPSO) algorithm
2 PBPSO algorithm In 2004, Shen et al.[19] proposed a modified discrete bi-
nary PSO (MBPSO). In MBPSO, the updating formulas
2.1 PSO algorithm are given by the following equations:

PSO algorithm is a population-based heuristic search al- xij (old), if 0 6 vij 6 a

gorithm and belongs to the class of swarm intelligence based 1
xij (new) = pij , if a < vij 6 (1 + a) (5)
algorithms. The PSO was introduced by Kennedy and 2

g , 1
Eberhart[18] by simulating social behavior of birds in 1995. ij if (1 + a) < v ij 6 1.
It consists of a group of m particles. Each member of the 2
group is represented by position xij = [xi1 , , xid ] and MBPSO replaces all original equations of basic PSO and
velocity vij = [vi1 , , vid ] in a d-dimensional search space, gives entirely new updating formulas. In MBPSO, there
where x and v are vectors. The initial positions and veloc- are no acceleration coefficients or inertia weight. The ini-
ities are random from a normal population u [0, 1]. All tial position bits are determined randomly. The velocity
particles move in the search space to optimize an objective is constrained in the interval u [0, 1]. The update is per-
function f (x). Each member of the group gets a score ac- formed according to (5), where a is a predefined static prob-
cording to the level of accuracy in reaching the target. The ability fixed as a constant value in the range [0, 1], usually
M. I. Menhas et al. / Coordinated Controller Tuning of a Boiler Turbine Unit with 187

0.5. Here, a comparison between v(i, j) and a randomly particle, initial velocities of particles, initial positions of
produced value r [0, 1] determines the bit of the particle particles, bounds on velocity and the pseudo-probability,
position according to (5). and search boundaries.
For example, let us consider a swarm with m particles in
2.4 Probability based discrete binary PSO a d-dimensional search space, where each direction is repre-
algorithm sented by a binary bit either 0 or 1. The initial actual po-
The PBPSO algorithm is reworking on DBPSO algo- sition vector, initial velocity, and initial pseudo-probability
rithm. It is a hybrid approach that integrates the concept of associated with i-th particle can be given as
probability optimization and particle swarm optimization. Xb(i,d) = [xb(i,1) , xb(i,2) , , xb(i,d) ] (8)
The PBPSO algorithm differs from DBPSO as follows:

1) Both the velocity and position update rules in (1) and V(i,d) = [v(i,1) , v(i,2) , , v(i,d) ] = [0, 0, , 0] (9)
(2) of the continuous PSO algorithm are preserved.

2) The position update rule in (2) of continuous PSO al-

gorithm is considered to update the pseudo-probability x(i,d) = [x(i,1) , x(i,2) , , x(i,d) ] = [0, 0, , 0] (10)
of the actual position bit.
where i = 1, , m is the index of the particle, and j =
3) The estimate of actual probability of a particle posi- 1, , d is the index of binary bit sequence or dimension.
tion bit x(i,j) to be 0 or 1 is determined using a new Step 2. Generating initial candidate solutions
linear estimator P , as shown below: In order to generate the initial Xb bits of the actual parti-
cle position vector, a random number r [0, 1] is generated
and compared with P as
x Xmin
P = (6) (
Xmax Xmin 1, if rand 6 P(i,j)
xb(i,j) = (11)
where x is the probability, and it is constrained in the in- 0, else.
terval [Xmin , Xmax ]; similarly, the velocity variable V is
constrained in the interval [Vmin , Vmax ] as in DBPSO. P is Because the initial value of x is 0, according to (3),
the actual probability and is confined in the interval [0, 1]. P = 0.5, the initial Xb bits have an equal probability to
Xmax and Xmin are two constants and Xmax = Xmin and be either 1 or 0.
Vmax = Vmin . P R, x R, and V R. Step 3. Initial fitness computing
The initial binary bits to represent each dimension of The initial fitness values of the swarm comprising m par-
particle position vector are not random. ticles are computed on objective function F (x).
Instead, in PBPSO, these bits are determined by per- Step 4. Setting initial personal best (Pbest ) and global
forming a comparison between P of relation (6) and a ran- best (gbest )
dom number r [0, 1] as The initial personal best is the current position of the
( particle and the corresponding fitness value while the ini-
1, if rand 6 P tial global best is position of the best particle in the swarm.
xb = (7)
0, else. Both positions and associated fitness values are recorded.
Step 5. Update of pseudo-probability x and velocity V
4) The initial velocities are set to zero. Now, an update of velocity V and pseudo-probability x
is done according to following equations:
5) The initial pseudo probabilities are also set to zero.
k+1 k
V(i,j) = w V(i,j) + c1 r1 (pkxb(i,j) xkb(i,j) )+
Further, a mutation operation is introduced to main-
tain the population diversity. The mutation operation will c2 r2 (gxkb(1,j) xkb(i,j) ) (12)
change a bit with a very small probability. A random num-
ber r [0, 1] is generated, and if r 6 m, then a bit state of
xk+1 k k+1
(i,j) = x(i,j) + V(i,j) (13)
x(i,j) can be changed from 1 to 0 or 0 to 1. Here, m is a
predefined mutation probability. Step 6. Generation of new candidate solutions
In PBPSO, the non-linear sigmoid function of DBPSO After updating V and X, new candidate solutions are
algorithm as in (3) has been replaced by a new linear es- generated with new probability for a bit to take the value.
timator P , as in (6). Because of velocity constriction, the Step 7. Fitness computing on successive iterations
algorithm inherently possesses some mutation probability. The new candidate solutions are evaluated on the fitness
The modifications have significantly improved performance function F (x).
of the algorithm. Step 8. Renewal of personal best (Pbest ) and global best
The whole procedure of the PBPSO algorithm is ex- (gbest )
plained as follows: On successive iterations, renew of personal best and
Step 1. Initialization global best is performed by replacing previous personal best
This step comprises setting of population size, PSO pa- and global best with new personal best and new global best
rameters, like acceleration coefficients, inertia weight, num- of a better fitness value.
ber of binary bits to represent the position vector of each Step 9. Termination of the algorithm
188 International Journal of Automation and Computing 8(2), May 2011

The algorithm terminates if stopping criterion is reached. or

The flow chart diagram of the PBPSO algorithm is given Ki
in Fig. 1. Gc (s) = Kp + + Kd s (15)

where Kp , Ti , and Td represent the proportional gain, inte-

gral time, and derivative time, respectively.

1) The proportional term provides a control action pro-

portional to the error and reduces the rise time.

2) The integral term reduces the steady-state error by

performing an integral control action and eliminates
the steady-state error.

3) The derivative term improves the stability of the sys-

tem and reduces the overshoot by improving the tran-
sient response.

3.2 PBPSO-based coordinated controller

structure of a boiler turbine unit
The schematic diagram of a coordinated controller for a
boiler turbine unit can be considered, as in Fig. 2, where P
is the process model, D is the decoupler for achieving diag-
onal dominance to eliminate the coupling of the process,
is the governor valve position, is the boiler firing rate, P
and N are the desired throttle pressure and output power,
while Po and No are the actual throttle pressure and output

3.3 Process model

Consider the following transfer function model of a boiler
turbine unit at any operating point[1] .

P (s) =
Fig. 1 Flow chart diagram of the PBPSO algorithm
4.2471(3.4s + 1) 3.224s(3.4s + 1)
3 PBPSO implementation (100s + 1)(20s + 1)(10s + 1)

(100s + 1)(10s + 1)
0.224 0.19(20s + 1)

3.1 PID controller (100s + 1)(20s + 1) (100s + 1)
The three term continuous PID controller transfer func-
tion can be expressed as As the system requires decoupling to achieve diagonal

1 dominance, a steady-state decoupler for the above process
Gc (s) = Kp 1 + + Td s (14) model is given as
Ti s

Fig. 2 PBPSO based coordinated control structure of boiler turbine unit with a compensator
M. I. Menhas et al. / Coordinated Controller Tuning of a Boiler Turbine Unit with 189

" #
1 0.2355 0 Z Z
D = [P (0)] = . (17) t t
0.2776 5.2632 f= |yd1 yout1 |dt + |yd2 yout2 |dt+
0 0
The decoupler D is placed in series with P so that
Z t Z t
G = P D is diagonal, then two PID controllers PID1 and
|yd3 yout3 |dt + |yd4 yout4 |dt (19)
PID2 are tuned to meet the required control performance. 0 0

3.4 Experiments and simulation results where yd1 = yd4 = 1 and yd2 = yd3 = 0.
3.4.1 Experimental conditions In order to perform a bounded search, parameter search
The experiments were carried out using Matlab, Pentium boundaries were specified, as shown below:
3.06 GHz, and 2 GB of RAM.
Each algorithm was tested for 8 000 (20040)fitness eval- (
0 6 Kp1 6 3, 0 6 Ki1 6 3, 0 6 Kd1 6 3
uations under identical conditions.
3.4.2 Simulation model 0 6 Kp2 6 3, 0 6 Ki2 6 3, 0 6 Kd2 6 3
The simulation model of the coordinated controller for
the process given by (16) was developed using Matlab. where, Kp1 , Ki1 , Kd1 and Kp2 , Ki2 , Kd2
3.4.3 Parameter settings for algorithms | {z } | {z }
As optimization, performance of any algorithm depends The best PID controller parameters and associated IAE
on parameter setting and inappropriate parameter values values among 20 simulation experiments with each algo-
may yield poor results. rithm were summarized in Table 2. The transient perfor-
In this particular case, to identify the best parameters for mances were shown in Fig. 3. From Table 2, Figs. 3 and 4,
each of the algorithms used for comparison with PBPSO, it can be seen that the PBPSO algorithm yields superior
simulation experiments were repeated independently with results in comparison to PSO, DBPSO, and MBPSO both
each algorithm with different parameter values to determine in terms of transient performance requirements and IAE
the most optimal parameters. values.
The parameter values of various algorithms are listed in
Table 1, where n is the population size and N is the number
of total iterations.
Table 1 Parameter values of algorithms

Algorithms c1 c2 w n N Vmax Xmax

PBPSO 2.0 2.0 0.7 40 200 50 50

DBPSO 2.0 2.0 0.7 40 200 50

MBPSO 40 200 As in (5)

PSO 1.5 1.5 0.7 40 200 0.3

3.4.4 Objective function (a) Transient performances of output power

In optimization, a performance criterion or an objective
function returns an optimal solution. Therefore, the time
integral performance index and the integral of the absolute
error (IAE) were chosen as the performance criteria:
Z t
IAE = |yd y|dt. (18)
3.4.5 Experiments and simulation results
After setting algorithmic parameters, each variable of the
PID controller was set as a 16 bit binary string. Therefore,
a total of 96 bit were used to encode each candidate solution
comprising six variables for two PID controllers. These can-
didate solutions were decoded to their corresponding dec-
imal equivalents using standard binary to decimal conver-
sion rules. The resultant decimal values were passed to
both PID controllers simultaneously to evaluate the fitness (b) Transient performances of throttle pressure
of each candidate solution to minimize the following objec-
tive function: Fig. 3 Transient performances
190 International Journal of Automation and Computing 8(2), May 2011

Table 2 PID parameters obtained with various algorithms

Performance Controller parameters

Modes Algorithms Fitness
criterions Kp1 Ki1 Kd1 Kp2 Ki2 Kd2
IAE PID PSO 3 0.0229 2.5522 3 3 3 85.3014
IAE PID DBPSO 2.8350 0.0230 0.0663 2.5303 2.9221 0.0008 81.3047
IAE PID MBPSO 2.9988 0.0241 0.1079 2.9999 2.9290 0.0306 80.8404
IAE PID PBPSO 3 0.0227 0.014 2.9993 3 0.0694 77.6731

it is quite obvious from the fitness plot provided in Fig. 4

that the PBPSO method gives good results both in terms of
IAE values and convergence speed. Fig. 5 shows the conver-
gence behavior of PID parameters during 200 iterations. It
is observed that PBPSO determines the true optimal con-
troller gains. PSO, DBPSO, and MBPSO trapped in local
optima in many cases, while PBPSO has shown robustness
in escaping from local optimum.

5 Conclusions
In this paper, firstly, a new binary PSO, PBPSO, is
proposed. The proposed PBPSO algorithm is compared
Fig. 4 Convergence characteristics/fitness plot
with three former PSO algorithms of PID coordinated con-
troller tuning of boiler turbine unit. The comparative study
4 Comparison results through a series of simulation experiments have shown that
PBPSO method is more effective in identifying true optimal
In all cases, under identical conditions, the proposed gains in comparison to the continuous PSO, DBPSO, and
PBPSO algorithm yields the best optimization results, and MBPSO.

(a) (b)

(c) (d)
M. I. Menhas et al. / Coordinated Controller Tuning of a Boiler Turbine Unit with 191

(e) (f)
Fig. 5 Convergence behaviors of PID parameters

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H. Kashiwagi. CAutoCSD-evolutionary search and optimi-
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In Proceedings of IEEE International Conference on Neu- Min-Rui Fei received the Ph. D. degree
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1995. from Shanghai University, PRC in 1997.
Since 1998, he has been a professor at
[19] Q. Shen, J. H. Jiang, C. X. Jiao, G. L. Shen, R. Q. Yu. School of Mechatronics and Automation,
Modified particle swarm optimization algorithm for variable Shanghai University. He is a vice chairman
selection in MLR and PLS modeling: QSAR studies of an- of Chinese Association of System Simula-
tagonism of angiotensin II antagonists. European Journal tion, a standing director of China Instru-
of Pharmaceutical Sciences, vol. 22, no. 23, pp. 145152, ment & Control Society, and director of Chinese Artificial Intel-
2004. ligence Association.
His research interests include intelligent control, networked
control system, and wireless sensor networks.
Muhammad Ilyas Menhas received
the B. Sc. degree in electrical engineering
from University of Azad Jammu & Kash-
mir Pakistan in 2002. He has been an Cheng-Xi Ma received the M. Sc. degree
assistant engineer in AJK Electricity De- in control theory and control engineering
partment and a visiting lecturer at Cen- from School of Mechatronics and Automa-
tre for Computer Science and Information tion, Shanghai University, PRC in 2010. He
Technology University College Kotli, Azad is an employee of East China Electric Power
Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan. Currently, he is a Ph. D. candidate Design Institute, PRC.
at School of Mechatronics and Automation Shanghai University, His research interests include optimiza-
Shanghai, PRC. tion and automatic control.
His research interests include intelligent optimization algo- E-mail:
rithms and automatic control.