Active Disturbance Rejection: An Information-Centric Paradigm Shift in Industrial Control

Professor Zhiqiang Gao
Professor, Cleveland State University
Given on: March 14, 2013


This talk begins with a reflection on the history and foundation of cybernetics, leading to the introduction of Active Disturbance Rejection Control (ADRC). ADRC symbolizes a paradigm shift motivated by the conviction that industrial control is, in essence, an information processing problem. Specifically, with modern techniques, disturbance information can be extracted from an industrial process in a timely and effective manner, allowing the controller to reject the disturbances before they impact a process and resulting in better performance and energy savings. The idea of ADRC has a long and fascinating history going back thousands of years, from Emperor Huang Di's South-Pointing Chariot to Jean Victor Poncelet's Isochronous Governor in the early 1800s, to the Invariance Principle of Shipanov in the Soviet Union just before WWII, and finally to its revival by Jingqing Han in China in the 1990s. In recent years, ADRC has become a disruptive technology and is being commercialized in North America by a startup, financed in part by US Venture Partners. Already, it has saved a Parker Hannifin plant over 50% of energy across ten extrusion lines; achieved 200% to 400% performance improvement in superconducting radio frequency cavities of modern linear particle accelerators at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Lab; and is being hardwired into DSP chips by Texas Instruments under a licensing agreement. The future of this information based paradigm of industrial control now appears bright and boundless.


Prof. Zhiqiang Gao received his Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 1990 and has taught at Cleveland State University ever since. Faced with an ever-widening chasm between control theory and practice, Dr. Gao returned to the roots by collaborating extensively with engineers at NASA and in industry to understand and solve real world problems, from which the foundations and authenticity of a different kind of research were rebuilt. A chance meeting with Prof. Jingqing Han in 1995 led Dr. Gao to switch directions and focus on active disturbance rejection control, which he and his team nurtured from its early, conceptual stage into a maturing and emerging industrial control technology. In doing so, he made an obscure idea clear and a complex controller easily implementable in an industrial setting, often with staggering improvements in performance and energy savings. By asking basic and rudimentary questions, Dr. Gao and his team find creative solutions in practice and vitality in research. Details can be found at