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This paper presents an efficient approach for solving economic dispatch (ED) problems with nonconvex cost functions using an improved particle swarm optimization (IPSO). Although the particle swarm optimization (PSO) approaches have several advantages suitable to heavily constrained nonconvex optimization problems, they still can have the drawbacks such as local optimal trapping due to premature convergence (i.e., exploration problem), insufficient capability to find nearby extreme points (i.e., exploitation problem), and lack of efficient mechanism to treat the constraints (i.e., constraint handling problem). This paper proposes an improved PSO framework employing chaotic sequences combined with the conventional linearly decreasing inertia weights and adopting a crossover operation scheme to increase both exploration and exploitation capability of the PSO. In addition, an effective constraint handling framework is employed for considering equality and inequality constraints. The proposed IPSO is applied to three different nonconvex ED problems with valve-point effects, prohibited operating zones with ramp rate limits as well as transmission network losses, and multi-fuels with valve-point effects. Additionally, it is applied to the large-scale power system of Korea. Also, the results are compared with those of the state-of-the-art methods.