Professor Beckman's interests include solar energy, building energy analysis, and radiation heat transfer. His research analyzes complex energy systems through computer simulations. He brings research results into the classroom through courses in general heat transfer, thermodynamics and solar energy applications.
Beckman directs the Solar Energy Laboratory, which supports about 15 graduate students conducting research in energy systems analysis ranging from optimal control of large HVAC systems, to assessing the impact on an electric utility of a large-scale implementation of solar water heating systems. Lab funding comes from the U.S. Department of Energy, industry, NSF, NIST and the state of Wisconsin.
The modular energy systems program TRNSYS, which is used throughout the world, is a product of the Solar Energy Laboratory. Graduate student theses often result in extensions to the TRNSYS program by providing new or updated models of energy equipment that can be incorporated into complex system models. Through the TRNSYS environment, equipment models can be shared among energy system researchers and designers. TRNSYS has the flexibility to model any energy system since the program is designed to be modified by specialized users.
The textbook Solar Energy Thermal Processes, by Beckman and emeritus chemical engineering Professor J. A. Duffie, is an outgrowth of research conducted in the Solar Energy Laboratory.