The control-theoretic notion of controllability captures the ability to guide a system toward a desired state with a suitable choice of inputs. Controllability of complex networks such as traffic networks, gene regulatory networks, power grids etc. can for instance enable efficient operation or entirely new applicative possibilities. However, when control theory is applied to complex networks like these, several challenges arise. This thesis considers some of them, in particular we investigate how a given network can be rendered controllable at a minimum cost by placement of control inputs or by growing the network with additional edges between its nodes. As cost function we take either the number of control inputs that are needed or the energy that they must exert.
A control input is called unilateral if it can assume either positive or negative values, but not both. Motivated by the many applications where unilateral controls are common, we reformulate classical controllability results for this particular case into a more computationally-efficient form that enables a large scale analysis. Assuming that each control input targets only one node (called a driver node), we show that the unilateral controllability problem is to a high degree structural: from topological properties of the network we derive theoretical lower bounds for the minimal number of unilateral control inputs, bounds similar to those that have already been established for the minimal number of unconstrained control inputs (e.g. can assume both positive and negative values). With a constructive algorithm for unilateral control input placement we also show that the theoretical bounds can often be achieved.
A network may be controllable in theory but not in practice if for instance unreasonable amounts of control energy are required to steer it in some direction. For the case with unconstrained control inputs, we show that the control energy depends on the time constants of the modes of the network, the longer they are, the less energy is required for control. We also present different strategies for the problem of placing driver nodes such that the control energy requirements are reduced (assuming that theoretical controllability is not an issue). For the most general class of networks we consider, directed networks with arbitrary eigenvalues (and thereby arbitrary time constants), we suggest strategies based on a novel characterization of network non-normality as imbalance in the distribution of energy over the network. Our formulation allows to quantify network non-normality at a node level as combination of two different centrality metrics. The first measure quantifies the influence that each node has on the rest of the network, while the second measure instead describes the ability to control a node indirectly from the other nodes. Selecting the nodes that maximize the network non-normality as driver nodes significantly reduces the energy needed for control.
Growing a network, i.e. adding more edges to it, is a promising alternative to reduce the energy needed to control it. We approach this by deriving a sensitivity function that enables to quantify the impact of an edge modification with the H_{2} and H_{∞} norms, which in turn can be used to design edge additions that improve commonly used control energy metrics.