Name: Dr. Hanmin Cai


Phone: +41 58 765 40 77

Affiliation: Scientist, Cluster leader, Urban Energy Systems Lab, Empa

Address: Überlandstrasse 129, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland




Links: Linkedin | Google Scholar | ORCID


Open student projects


Open-source projects

nestli: Neighborhood Energy System Testing towards Large-scale Integration

nestli is the virtual sister of the NEST demonstrator at Empa and the open-source code is hosted here:

It is a co-simulation environment for benchmarking the performance of BACS (building automation and control systems). In its core, nestli is a calibrated EnergyPlus model of the UMAR living lab. see:

The calibrated EnergyPlus model is wrapped into an FMU (fucntional mock-up unit) using the EnergyPlusToFMU tool. see:

The model is calibrated on measurements that are collected at 1-minute intervals, and thus runs at the same temporal resolution. The HVAC system can be controlled by overriding the setpoint temperature in each room. It is also possible to evaluate the robustness of the controller by manipulating weather conditions and building operation.


gifts: Grassroots Intelligence For Technological Sustainability

We explore repurposing discarded smartphones for energy management in buildings. We hope to address both environmental concerns of electronic waste and the need for building automation. You can find the public repository here:



I am a Scientist with the Urban Energy System Lab at Empa. Prior to joining Empa, I worked as a Ph.D. student with the Center for Electric Power and Energy (CEE) at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). I was mainly involved in developing and demonstrating future energy solutions within the EnergyLab Nordhavn project, using a full-scale smart city energy lab in Copenhagen. Before that, I received my Msc from EPFL.

My focus area is the intersection of multiple fields, including building energy flexibility, multi-energy system operation, and machine learning. I am interested in both theoretical research and experimental implementation/validation. Check out our state-of-the-art NEST building.


Ongoing research projects


Leader of Work package 3;

Leader of WP5 P&D project nanoverbund.


Guest lectures

  • ICT-Automation & Control for the course "Building systems", at ETHz, Autumn 2023
  • ICT-Automation & Control for the course "Building systems", at ETHz, Autumn 2022
  • Governing Energy Transitions: Urban energy transition management, at Universität St. Gallen, 2021


Past research projects

EnergyLab Nordhavn

From 2015 until 2019 the project EnergyLab Nordhavn – New Urban Energy Infrastructures has developed and demonstrated future energy solutions. The project has utilized and consolidated Copenhagen’s Nordhavn as a full-scale smart city energy lab and demonstrated how electricity and heating, energy-efficient buildings and electric transport can be integrated into an intelligent, flexible, and optimized energy system.

Funding body: EUDP (Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Programme) Denmark

Selected publications

  • Yin, M.*, Cai, H.*, Gattiglio, A., Khayatian, F., Smith, R. S., & Heer, P. (2024). Data-driven predictive control for demand side management: Theoretical and experimental results. Applied Energy, 353, 122101.

  • Le Dréau, J., Lopes, R. A., O'Connell, S., Finn, D., Hu, M., Queiroz, H., ... & Saeed, M. H. (2023). Developing energy flexibility in clusters of buildings: a critical analysis of barriers from planning to operation. Energy and Buildings, 113608.

  • Cai, Hanmin. "Circular economy meets building automation." In Journal of Physics: Conference Series, vol. 2600, no. 19, p. 192011. IOP Publishing, 2023.

  • Hekmat, N., Cai, H., Zufferey, T., Hug, G., & Heer, P. (2023, June). Data-driven demand-side flexibility quantification: Prediction and approximation of flexibility envelopes. In 2023 IEEE Belgrade PowerTech (pp. 1-6). IEEE.

  • Khayatian, F., Cai, H., Bojarski, A., Heer, P., & Bollinger, A. (2022). Benchmarking hvac controller performance with a digital twin. Applied Energy Symposium 2022: Clean Energy towards Carbon Neutrality (CEN2022).

  • Cai, H., and Heer, P. (2021). Experimental implementation of an emission-aware prosumer with online flexibility quantification and provision. arXiv preprint

  • Gasser, J., Cai, H., Karagiannopoulos, S., Heer, P., and Hug, G. (2021). Predictive energy management of residential buildings while self-reporting flexibility envelope. Applied Energy, 288, 116653.

  • Cai, H., Thingvad, A., You, S. and Marinelli, M., 2020. Experimental evaluation of an integrated demand response program using electric heat boosters to provide multi-system services. Energy, 193, p.116729. 

  • Cai, H., You, S. and Wu, J., 2020. Agent-based distributed demand response in district heating systems. Applied Energy, 262, p.114403. 

  • Wang, J., You, S., Zong, Y., Cai, H., Træholt, C. and Dong, Z.Y., 2019. Investigation of real-time flexibility of combined heat and power plants in district heating applications. Applied Energy, 237, pp.196-209.

  • Klyapovskiy, S., You, S., Cai, H. and Bindner, H.W., 2019. Incorporate flexibility in distribution grid planning through a framework solution. International Journal of Electrical Power & Energy Systems, 111, pp.66-78. 

  • Klyapovskiy, S., You, S., Cai, H. and Bindner, H.W., 2018. Integrated planning of a large-scale heat pump in view of heat and power networks. IEEE Transactions on Industry Applications, 55(1), pp.5-15.

  • Cai, H., Ziras, C., You, S., Li, R., Honoré, K. and Bindner, H.W., 2018. Demand side management in urban district heating networks. Applied energy, 230, pp.506-518.

  • Cai, H., You, S., Wang, J., Bindner, H.W. and Klyapovskiy, S., 2018. Technical assessment of electric heat boosters in low-temperature district heating based on combined heat and power analysis. Energy, 150, pp.938-949.


Student supervision

2024, Spring semester

  • Master thesis student, Heidi Bonde Nielsen,  Msc Aarhus University. Co-supervision with Dr. Massimo Fiorentini.
  • Semester thesis student, Daniele GinforteMsc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Dr. Federica Bellizio.
  • Semester thesis student, Albéric de Tessières de BlanzacMsc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Matthias Brandes and Arvind Srinivasan.
  • Bachelor thesis student, Marvin Schwander,  Bsc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Ana Bendiek and Dr. Didier Beloin-Saint-Pierre.

2023, Fall semester

  • Master thesis student, Pedro Pena Zorzano,  Msc DTU. Co-supervision with Julie Rousseau and Dr. Charalampos Ziras.
  • Semester thesis student, Jan Brädle,  Msc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Julie Rousseau.
  • Semester thesis student, Bernadino Bernad,  Msc ETH Zurich.
  • Semester thesis student, Ehrhardt EricMsc ETH Zurich
  • Master thesis student, Roxanne Vandenberghe,  Msc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Dr. Gabriele Humbert.
  • Semester thesis student, Charlotte Jacquet,  Msc ETH Zurich.

2023, Spring semester

  • Master thesis student, Michael Lustenberger, Msc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Dr. Federica Bellizio and Dr. Charalampos Ziras.
  • Master thesis student, Andrei Zotov, Msc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Dr. Federica Bellizio and Dr. Charalampos Ziras.
  • Semester thesis student, Frederik Mohr, Msc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Julie Rousseau.

2022, Fall semester

  • Master thesis student, Qiuxian Li, Msc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Dr. Natasa Vulic.
  • Master thesis student, Josien de Koning, Msc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Dr. Binod Koirala and Prof. John Lygeros (IfA ETH Zurich).

2022, Spring semester

  • Master thesis student, Andrea Gattiglio, Msc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Mingzhou Yin and Prof. Roy Smith (IfA ETH Zurich).
  • Master thesis student, Matthias Brandes, Msc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Dr. Jacopo Vivian and Prof. Roy Smith (IfA ETH Zurich).

2021, Spring semester

  • Master thesis student, Nami Hekmat, Msc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Thierry Zufferey and Prof. Gabriela Hug (PSL ETH Zurich)

2020, Fall semester

  • Semester project student, Timmy Frischknecht, Msc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Thierry Zufferey and Prof. Gabriella Hug (PSL ETH Zurich)
  • Master thesis student, Muriel Beaud, Msc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Dr. Dasun Perera and Prof. Roy Smith (IfA ETH Zurich)

2020, Spring semester

  • Master thesis student, Jan Gasser, Msc ETH Zurich. Co-supervision with Philipp Heer, Dr. Stavros Karagiannopoulos and Prof. Gabriella Hug (PSL ETH Zurich)