Doctoral Dissertation, Stanford University, June 2005.

This thesis considers the problem of constructing optimal decentralized controllers. The problem is formulated as one of minimizing the closed-loop norm of a feedback system subject to constraints on the controller structure.

The notion of quadratic invariance of a constraint set with respect to a system is defined. It is shown that quadratic invariance is necessary and sufficient for the constraint set to be preserved under feedback. It is further shown that if the constraint set has this property, this allows the constrained minimum-norm problem to be solved via convex programming. These results are developed in a very general framework, and are shown to hold for continuous-time systems, discrete-time systems, or operators on Banach spaces, for stable or unstable plants, and for the minimization of any norm.

The utility of these results is then demonstrated on some specific constraint classes. An explicit test is derived for sparsity constraints on a controller to be quadratically invariant, and thus amenable to convex synthesis. Symmetric synthesis is also shown to be quadratically invariant.

The problem of control over networks with delays is then addressed as another constraint class. Multiple subsystems are considered, each with its own controller, such that the dynamics of each subsystem may affect those of other subsystems with some propagation delays, and the controllers may communicate with each other with some transmission delays. It is shown that if the communication delays are less than the propagation delays, then the associated constraints are quadratically invariant, and thus optimal controllers can be synthesized. We further show that this result still holds in the presence of computational delays.

This thesis unifies the few previous results on specific tractable decentralized control problems, identifies broad and useful classes of new solvable problems, and delineates the largest known class of convex problems in decentralized control.