Interview with PAC World guru Dr. M. Ramamoorty

PAC World: When and where were you born?
M.R..: I was born on October 7th 1936.

PAC World: Where did you grow up?
M.R.: I grew up in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, India.

PAC World: What were your interests while in school?
M.R.: During my school years I liked playing soccer and participating in student debates.
We used to get different topics from the teachers during the year and then the students debate them under the teachers’ supervision.

PAC World: Did your parents or anyone else in your family influence your decision to become an engineer?
M.R.: Yes, my father. He encouraged me to get a higher education. I had options more or less to go into medicine, law or engineering.
I didn’t like law, medicine was too expensive – so I selected engineering

PAC World: Why did you select electrical engineering over other fields?
M.R.: I developed a liking for Electrical Engineering.

PAC World: Where did you study engineering?
M.R: I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (E. E.) (Honors) from Andhra University in 1957 and two years later in 1959, my Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

PAC World: Why did you decide to continue your education in Canada?
M.R.: While teaching at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, I applied for the Common Wealth Fellowship for Higher studies. I preferred to go to Canada and work with Prof. G. R. Slemon at the University of Toronto. I met Prof. Slemon while he was a Visiting Professor at the Regional Engineering College Suratkal Karnataka, India.

PAC World: Why did you choose an academic career after finishing your education in Canada?
M.R.: While at the University of Toronto during my Ph. D. program I was selected for a Teaching Position at IIT Kanpur. I took up this offer after returning to India.
My father was a teacher in the District Board Schools of Nellore. I was influenced by him and I liked the respect he used to get from the students and the public in general.
This has inspired me to become a teacher.

PAC World: What was the difference between the education systems and environment in India and Canada?
M.R.: There is a lot of difference in the educational systems followed in the two countries.
In India the Teacher is respected and in the academic institutions the student discipline is given very much importance. But the infrastructure in the schools and the academic facilities like laboratories are not good enough.

This is because of the insufficient funds provided to the education sector by the government. Private funded educational Institutions are very few.
The situation is changing now. Still a lot of improvement is needed, particularly at the elementary and secondary education levels.
The higher education in the universities and IITs standard of education is almost the same as in Canada.

PAC World: After ten years in a university you decided to join a manufacturer. What made you change from academia to industry?
M.R. The academic atmosphere at IIT Kanpur was not suiting my taste and at that time Brown Boveri Company (India) had just established a Corporate R&D center at Baroda and was looking for a person to manage the Center as Chief of Research.
I also got interested in industry oriented research and development work and wanted to see the outcome of some of my R&D work to be commercialized.
So when the offer came to me from Brown Boveri (India) I moved there.
PAC World: You were responsible for the development of different products, including some protection equipment. Can you explain what protection devices you developed?
M.R.: Static Inverse time overcurrent relay and time delay relay were developed and commercialized. At that time the company was manufacturing and electromechanical version of these relays. Static relays had not yet been introduced in the Indian power sector at that time.

PAC World: In 1983 you became the first Director General of the Central Power Research Institute (CPRI). What were your goals and challenges during the time you spent in this position?
M.R.: When I took over as Director General of the CPRI there were a lot of administrative problems and in the discipline among the employees.
The image of CPRI among power utilities and manufacturers was very poor.
I wanted to change all this and make CPRI an effective R&D organization in India. I am happy to state that my goals were achieved.

PAC World: In 1995 you took over as Director of ERDA Vadodara. What was the reason for this change?
M.R.: I had to retire from government service after superannuation.

PAC World: During the years when you were working for manufacturers or research institutions you continued teaching as a Visiting Professor in several universities around the world.
What kept you involved with teaching?
M.R.: As I have already mentioned, I have a great liking for teaching.

PAC World: Did you approach teaching in the different countries in a different way?
M.R.: No. I used to offer special courses for graduate students.

PAC World: You authored seven books on a wide range of subjects. How do you develop and maintain such deep knowledge on so many subjects?
M.R.: My basic back ground was in Electrical Engineering and I did my Masters degree in High Voltage Engineering and Ph.D in power systems.

So when students came to me for guidance depending on their interests I used to offer them topics for research in various areas.
This has prompted me and also helped me author books on a wide range of subjects, mostly for the undergraduate students.

PAC World: You had an idea about digital distance protection. Can you please explain?
M.R.: The analog signals of line to ground voltage and phase current are obtained through the instrument transformers continuously for all the three phases. The processing of these signals is done for each phase in an identical manner. The voltage and current are sampled at a suitable frequency such that the interval between successive samples is compatible with the computational speed of the computer used for online fault detection.

Sampling instants are same for voltage and current.
A moving window of one cycle time duration is superimposed on the voltage and current samples. This window moves forward at one sample at each sampling instant. Thus at any time one complete samples set of voltage and current is available.

The DFT is performed on these discrete samples and the fundamental component of both magnitude and phase are computed for the voltage and current.
This process is repeated continuously at each time step which corresponds to the sampling interval. From these fundamental quantities the faulted line impedance both in magnitude and phase is obtained.

Depending on the desired relay characteristic (circle or Quadrilateral) the magnitude of the Impedance at the computed phase angle is calculated for threshold operation of the relay.
If the faulted line impedance computed from the fundamental voltage and current samples falls below this threshold impedance the relay picks up.

For close in faults when the voltage is very low and current is very high then the computed impedance will fall below the threshold impedance much before the normal one cycle period.
Thus this relay operates in less than one cycle period for genuine faults compared to the other types of distance relays which require one complete cycle of samples before the decision for tripping is made.

PAC World: You have 8 patents in several fields. What do you think is the secret to innovation?
M.R.: Most of my research projects (both software and hardware) have a good bearing on results leading to a product. When a product is good and new, I would apply for a patent.

PAC World: You are a Life Fellow of IEEE and Fellow of the Indian National Academy of Engineers. What do you think is the role of these organizations in the 21st century?
M.R.: The major responsibility of these organizations should be to ensure that the fruits of the technology development reach all sectors of the community.

PAC World: You are the recipient of many awards. Which one do you consider the most important to you and why?
M.R.: IEEMA an association of Indian Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers has conferred on me the Life Time Achievement Award which I consider very valuable to me since it came from a non-academic body.
I also value equally high the “Pandit Madan Mohan Malavya Award” I received last year on his 150th birth anniversary.
I was the first person to receive this award.

PAC World: You have published more than 200 papers. What was the reason to do that? Is it easy for you to write?
M.R.: During my stay at IIT Kanpur, Brown Boveri (India), CPRI and ERDA I guided more than 20 Ph.D. and a large number of Masters students.
There are requirements for a minimum number of technical papers to be published before the students are permitted to submit the thesis. Also I have been invited to present keynote papers at various conferences.
To establish as a research person, paper publications are a must. Being a teacher it became easy for me to write papers.

PAC World: What is the greatest challenge you faced during you professional career?
M.R.: When I moved from academic research to industrial research environment the freedom I enjoyed while at IIT Kanpur in choosing my research projects was not possible at the Brown Boveri R&D Center.
The projects have a commercial interest and time targets were strictly adhered. It took some time for me to adjust.

PAC World: Do you follow the development of IEC 61850 and if Yes, what do you think about its impact on the protection and control systems of the future?
M.R.: There was a time when interfacing relays manufactured by different companies was quite difficult and it was a problem faced by many utilities and consultants. Particularly communication between two different protection systems was severely restricted.

Compatibility with 61850 solved this problem inherent with different communication systems used in power system operation and substation automation through developments of common protocols.
This has reduced the execution time of the projects and improved the operational efficiency.
IEC 61850 specifications will be strictly followed in all protection, control and automation systems.

PAC World: How do you see the future of our industry?
M.R.: Protection and control are like the heart in a human body. They have to be kept healthy and must be active all the time. So their importance particularly in large interconnected systems is very high and I have no doubt to say that these will remain the top priority in the operation of power utilities.

PAC World: You are still actively involved as an industry advisor and visiting professor. What keeps you going?
M.R.: After formally retiring from government service as Director General at CPRI Bangalor, I moved to a private R&D institution ERDA at Baroda and worked there as Director for 12 years. The management requested me to continue as Director for some more time.
I had crossed 71 years by that time and I had groomed one of my senior officers sufficiently well by that time. I thought it was desirable to leave and allow the younger person to take over. But I was reasonably fit physically and mentally.

After leaving Baroda I moved to Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh which is my native state to settle.
In order to keep myself up to date in my specialized area of Power systems I decided to get associated with a few engineering institutions in Hyderabad on an honorary basis and help the students on their research projects.
Because of my background in industrial and academic research many industrial R&D centers seek my consultation.

PAC World: How do you balance your active professional life with your family life?
M.R.: Reasonably well. All my three children are well settled and they live in North America. My wife Lakshmi and I stay in our own house in Hyderabad. We are reasonably well off financially.
That is why I do not take any remuneration for my academic support to the engineering institutions.
Whenever some consultancy is requested from industries like CPRI and ERDA I offer free service.
On weekends we visit our relatives and friends and once every two years we visit our children in North America.

PAC World: What do you consider your greatest personal achievement?
M.R.: I am one of the earliest research workers of the 60’s to think of online evaluation of faulted line impedance leading to the present day concept of digital distance relaying schemes.

PAC World: What do you like to do when you are not working?
M.R.: I am very much interested in history. Most of the time when I am not on any professional or social work I spend in reading history books.

PAC World: You travel a lot all over the world. Do you have a favorite place?
M.R.: I taught at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. I like that place very much.

PAC World: Do you have favorite music?
M.R.: Not much. But I do listen to classical and light Indian music.

PAC World: What is your favorite food?
M.R.: I am a strict vegetarian and I like fried items and Sambar Rice.

PAC World: Do you have a motto?
M.R.: To be in touch with academic / research work as long as I can.

PAC World: Is there anything you like to say to the young PAC engineers that you teach or work with?
M.R.: At present, I have found many students, even at post graduate level, expecting spoon feeding and are not inclined to learn on their own by going through books and literature even though facilities are made available to them.
They do not like to go deep into the investigations and like to stop with some peripheral work.
My advice is that this tendency should stop, which will improve their self-confidence and make them good engineers and research workers

PAC World: Is there anything that we didn’t ask you that you think can help our readers better understand who you are?
M.R.: There is a general attitude among students to prefer jobs in IT industries over the core jobs in Electrical Engineering related to design, manufacturing and maintenance.
I wish to inform the students that there are enough challenges and opportunities in these core jobs and they provide better professional satisfaction and growth.

Let?s start with organization in protection testing