Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

 Elio USAI's CV


Current Position

Professor of Automatic control at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering–University of Cagliari (DIEE-UNICA), since October 2015.

Previous Positions

- Associate professor of Automatic control at DIEE-UNICA, Oct.2000-Sept.2015.

- Assistant professor of Automatic control at DIEE-UNICA, Sept.1994-Sept.2000.

- Production Manager for the Auxiliar Services, EniChem Factory Porto Torres (Italy), Aug.1990-Sept.1994

- Process Engineer for the Auxiliar Services, EniChem Factory Porto Torres (Italy), Oct.1988-Aug.1990.

- Process Engineer, Pirelli Research Labs Milan, Pirelli Cavi S.p.A., June1987-Sept.1988.

Intitutional Committments

Rector's Delegate for the quality of processes and services.


Previous Intitutional Committments

  • Coordinator of the University Quality Team form October 2015 to November 2021

  • Member of the University Quality Team from February 2014 to September 2015 (Vice-Coordinator from July to September 2015).

  • Point person of the University Quality Team at the Engineering and Architecture Faculty from November 2012 to November 2014.

  • Point person of the University Quality Team at the Bachelor Course in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from July 2012 to November 2015.

  • Coordinator of Bachelor Course in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from July 2011 to May 2015.

  • Reference person for the Interdisciplinary Lab for Higher Education in Engineering and Architecture (LIDIA) from May 2010 to December 2015.

  • Coordinator of the Courses (Bachelor and Master degrees) in Electronic Engineering from October 2006 to May 2012.

  • Coordinator of the Technological Curriculum of the School for Teachers' High School, Cagliari section, from December 2003 to closing (2008).

  • Secretary of Courses (Bachelor and Master degrees) in Electronic Engineering from October 2000 to September 2006.

  • Reference person for the DIEE Automatic Control Lab; from 28/3/2000 to 2012.


Other Committments

President of the academic spin-off SitAut s.r.l. from fundation on January 16th 2015.



April 1985: Laurea degree (5 years Master) with honour in Electrical Engineering, University of Cagliari, final thesis on “Minimum-time optimal control of a forest plant”.

Education on-job

  • May 2020– "Le novità per l’accreditamento dei Corsi di studio nel 2020/21", Fondazione CRUI, Prof. Vincenzo Zara

  • December 2017 – “Le relazioni esistenti tra obiettivi formativi, metodi e strumenti didattici e metodi e criteri di valutazione dell’apprendimento”, UniCa – DISCENTIA, various teachers, Cagliari

  • 12/4/2017 – “Nuovi requisiti e procedure per l’accreditamento iniziale e periodico delle sedi e dei corsi di studio”, Fondazione CRUI e dal Co.In.Fo., Prof. Massimo Tronci, Cagliari

  • 5/5/2014 – “Tecniche e modelli di valutazione dei processi in qualità“ – Dott.ssa Claudia Cardone

  • 1-2/4/2014 – “Management didattico 2014”, Fondazione CRUI e Co.In.Fo., Prof. Massimo Tronci, Cagliari

  • 14-16/11/2012 – “L’offerta formativa degli Atenei. Normativa & progettazione e Accreditamento dei corsi di studio e valutazione della qualità della didattica”, Fondazione CRUI e Co.In.Fo., prof. Vincenzo Zara, Dott.ssa Emanuela Stefani e Prof. Massimo Tronci, Cagliari

  • 14-17/4/2009 – “Corso di formazione per docenti Autovalutatori”, Campus Unica Project; Prof. Giuseppe Lo Nostro

  • 9/2009-2011 – Laboratorio Didattico Calaritano

  • 02/02-18/4/2009 – “Didattica delle competenze. Teoria e pratica” - various teachers, Cagliari

  • 1987-1994 – Various courses on the management and organization tool in international companies

  • 1989-1994 – Various courses on the technical standards for electrical networks and plants

Main Current Research topics

Variable Structure Systems:

The chattering effect in Variable Structure Control (VSC) systems with Sliding Modes (SM) was analysed to attenuate it. Techniques for the discontinuous control magnitude adaptation were defined and an original control algorithm, the so-called Sub-Optimal Second-Order Sliding Mode Controller, was developed. The robustness properties of such an algorithm with respect to the discrete-time implementation and unmodelled actuator dynamics were analysed. In the latter case frequency domain tools such as the Describing Function and the Locus of Perturbed Relay Systems were used to estimate and adjust the chattering parameters.

Robust observers and Fault diagnosis:

An approach based on higher-order sliding mode differentiators and an algebraic observer was developed and applied to chaos synchronization first. Then different observers for several classes of dynamical systems with unknown inputs were developed; some of them do not need any state transformation for their implementation. By the equivalent control concept the output injection of a strong observer was proposed as a useful residual for fault detection, and combining model based and soft computing approaches the performance can be improved and fault diagnosis achieved. Tests were performed on experimental set-up.

Control and estimation in interconnected systems:

Control and estimation in multi-agent systems with uncertainty and disturbance was approached by variable structure algorithms, for some classes of dynamical systems. The consensus and leader-following problems were faced and effective algorithms were developed for control and estimation problems.Within this frameworka voltage and frequancy distributed control system for micro-grids has been developed.

Robust output-feedback of nonlinear systems:

Finite time observers with real-time differentiators allow for the robust output-feedback control of nonlinear systems. The use of observers based on Higher-Order Sliding Modes (HOSM) give the best theoretical performance with respect to noise propagation. Such an approach has been applied to several electro-mechanical systems and experimental test where carried out on a laboratory-size overhead crane, a jet-propelled ROV.

Infinite dimensional systems with uncertainty:

PDE and Fractional Order models of infinite dimensional systems were considered. The main features of VSS with Second Order Sliding Modes have been extended to such classes of models. Therefore less general but more simple techniques are currently used to analyse hybrid phenomena which can appear in applications.

Past research activities were on :

  • Control and synchronisation of chaotic circuits

  • Modeling of hybrid systems

  • Parameter identification in nonlinear systems


  • Tutor of PhD students in Electronic and Computer Engineering and in Industrial Engineering at the University of Cagliari: Nicola Orani -Higher Order Sliding Mode Techniques for Fault Diagnosis (2010); Siro Pillosu - Unknown Input Estimation Techniques in networks with applications to open channel hydraulic systems (2012); Stefano Scodina - Observation and control of PDE with disturbances (2012); Alessandro Pilloni - Model based FDI and fault-tolerant control (2014); Gianluca Fadda – Supervision and diagnosis of industrial systems (2017).

  • Tutor for research grants on: Implementation of new control techniques in Distributed Control Systems (DCS)(2002); Modelling, monitoring and control of non conventional robotic systems (2003); Modelling, monitoring and control of overhead cranes (2006); Control and diagnosis of multi-agent dynamical systems (2015); Load sharing and robust regulation of a microgrid (2017); Procedures and methods for predictive diagnosis and methods (2019).

  • Host tutor at DIEE for foreign PhD students: Seyed Mehdi Rakhtala (Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Golestan University, Gorgan, Iran; 26/9/2011 ÷ 15/3/2012); Julio Luna (Institut de Robotica i Informatica Industrial, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – Barcelona, Spagna; 25/8/2014 ÷ 23/12/2014).

Lectures and seminars

  • Lecturing/teaching in basic and advanced courses on automatic control.

  • Lecture on “Zeno phenomena in hybrid systems and sliding mode behaviours”, PhD School on Electronic and Information Engineering, University of Cagliari, June 5th 2007.

  • Lectures on “Describing Function analysis of nonlinear systems” at the Department of Engineering, University of Leicester, under ERASMUS Agreement, March 2008.

  • Lecturer at the Summer School on ODEs with Discontinuous Right-Hand Side: Theory and Applications, Dobbiaco, Italy, June 2009.

  • Lecture on “Sliding mode approach to some control problems: Theory and application” presso Departamento de Ingeniería de Control y Robótica, División de Ingeniería Eléctrica, Facultad de Ingeniería UNAM, August 28th 2009.

  • Visiting Professor at the Technical University in Graz (Austria), 13/6-13/7/2016.

  • Teacher for "Fondamenti di automatica", Bachelor on Infromation engineering, University of Sassari, a.y. 2019/20.

Scientific evaluation activities

  • External evaluator for PhD thesis: Faculty of Engineering, Mohammad Ali Jinnah University, Islamabad (Pakistan); ITT Mumbay (India); University of Hull (UK), Ecole Centrale de Nantes (F).

  • Independent evaluator for research project funded by Italian and French agencies

Scientific and Technical cooperation with industries

  • F.S.T. - Atlantis Group (Cagliari). 1999: SECrET-Efficient Criptography by means of Chaotic Systems.

  • Hydrocontrol S.c.r.l. (Capoterra-CA) 2004: Methods for the design of the localization of the measurements and actuation devices in water pipelines.

  • Microsystems S.r.l. (Milan). 2004: Development of advanced controls for robotic dexterous manipulators based on guided bellows.

  • Ansaldo Energia - Finmeccanica Group (Genova). 2005: Development of a control device for the actuator of a turbine regolation.

  • Elianto S.r.l. (Cagliari). 2007: Technical advisoring, general design and scientific support to the prototipying of the actuation, control and supervisoring systems of a solar plant.

  • Abbanoa S.p.A. (Cagliari). 2010: Technical specifications for “Implementation of the remote control and measuring system for the management of the integrated water distribution system in Sardinia”.

Research coordination activity

  • 2003: RAS; “Singular persturbations in variable structure systems with unmoldelled dynamics of sensors and actuators” with the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

  • 2003: Cagliari University; “Advanced control techniques for uncertain systems and hybrid systems”.

  • 2004: MIUR; “Robust regulation in active train pantographs by means of variable structure controllers”, part of the national project “Improving current collection in high-speed trains by means of new active pantographs design and soft techniques for diagnosys”.

  • 2007: MAE; “Sliding mode observers for state and disturbance estimation for uncertain systems”, with the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM.

  • 2008: EC-FP7; “Robust model-based FDI for power plants” within the European project “Complex Power plants RObustification by fault Diagnosis, Isolation and Advanced Control Techniques (PRODI)”.

  • 2009: FONCICYT; “Analysis and control of energy converters”, part of the project “Automation od energy production processes via sliding mode”.

  • 2014: MAECI; "RObust Decentralised Estimation fOr large-scale systems (RODEO)", with the University of Belgrade.

  • 2017: RAS-POR FESR Sardegna 2014–2020 Asse 1 Azione 1.1.3, Strategia 2, Programma di intervento 3 “Competitività delle imprese”; “SAR-BIM-IA - System for the BIM-based modeling of TLC infrastructure for their management and maintenance”, project presented by La Sia s.r.l..

Member of research projects groups

Member of several research project on Automatic control at the DIEE funded by European, National and Regional Agencies. Among them: MIUR (2005) “Development of portainer crane simulator” within “Cybersar-Cyberinfrastructure for scientific and technological research in Sardinia”; MIUR (2007) "Dynamical models and new methods for the control, diagnosis and management of combined-circle power plants in transient and perturbed conditions"; MIUR (2007) "ESTATE project: Laboratory for the development of Concentrating Solar Power plants technologies"; EC-FP7 (2010) "HYCON2 - Highly-complex and networked control systems"; PHC Galileé (2011, 2012) “Techniques d'estimation puor les systèmes à commutations et applications à la sécurité des systeèmes embarqués”; RAS (2012) “Development and implementation of an advanced system for the load swing active control in portainer”; RAS (2015) "Inovative methods and technolgies for optimal management of micro-grids". RAS (2017) “VIRTUALENERGY – Development of systems for the integration, coordinationa and optimization of a Virtual Power Plant”; RAS (2019) "MOSIMA - Formal methods for monitoring multi-agent dynamical systems"; Fondazione Sardegna (2019) "ARGOSAT - Microsatellite cluster for the observation of optical transients in Astronomy".

Technical activities

  • Organizer/Co-organizer of special sessions in International Congresses.

  • Member of the International Program Committee of International workshops.

  • General Chairperson of the 9th Int. Workshop on Variable Structure Systems (VSS’06), Alghero, Italy.

  • Plenary speaker at the Workshop on Structural Dynamical Systems: Computational aspects (SDS 2008, 2010, 2012).

  • Member of the IEEE Technical Committee on Variable Structure and Sliding Mode Control since 2016.

Editorial activity

  • Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics: Systems since march 2019

  • Associate Editor for Journal of the Franklin Institute since january 2016

  • Associate Editor for IEEE Transaction on Control System Techbnology from january 2014 to december 2019

  • Associate Editor for Asian Journal of Control since november 2008

  • Associate Editor for International Journal of Engineering Mathematics from january 2013 to 2017

  • Co-editor of the book: Bartolini G., Fridman L., Pisano A., Usai E., editors, Modern Sliding Mode Control Theory – New Perspectives and Applications, LNCIS 375, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2008.

  • Reviewer for the main journals and international conferences in the Automatic Control area.


“Best paper award” to the paper “Chaos synchronisation via Sliding Modes”, authors: B. Cannas, S. Cincotti and E. Usai, Symposium on Chaos, Anticipation and Mathematical Systems (CASYS 2000), Liegi, Belgium.


Italian patent, “Method and apparatus for the dynamic positioning of an object moving in a fluid”, November 2005. Inventors: A. Pisano. G. Bartolini, E.Usai, T. Zolezzi, E. Punta, V. Arrichiello.

Infos on publications

Co-author of: 73 articles on international journals; 1 book review on a international journal; 16 chapters on international books; 141 papers/presentations at international conferences; 1 article on a national journal; 1 chapter in a national collection.

ORCID ID: 0000-0001-6338-2593

updated 20 may 2022

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