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Optimal modelling and experimentation for the improved sustainability of microfluidic chemical technology design

By W.B. Zimmerman and J.M. Rees


Optimization of the dynamics and control of chemical processes holds the promise of improved sustainability for chemical technology by minimizing resource wastage. Anecdotally, chemical plant may be substantially over designed, say by 35-50%, due to designers taking account of uncertainties by providing greater flexibility. Once the plant is commissioned, techniques of nonlinear dynamics analysis can be used by process systems engineers to recoup some of this overdesign by optimization of the plant operation through tighter control. At the design stage, coupling the experimentation with data assimilation into the model, whilst using the partially informed, semi-empirical model to predict from parametric sensitivity studies which experiments to run should optimally improve the model. This approach has been demonstrated for optimal experimentation, but limited to a differential algebraic model of the process. Typically, such models for online monitoring have been limited to low dimensions.\ud Recently it has been demonstrated that inverse methods such as data assimilation can be applied to PDE systems with algebraic constraints, a substantially more complicated parameter estimation using finite element multiphysics modelling. Parametric sensitivity can be used from such semi-empirical models to predict the optimum placement of sensors to be used to collect data that optimally informs the model for a microfluidic sensor system. This coupled optimum modelling and experiment procedure is ambitious in the scale of the modelling problem, as well as in the scale of the application - a microfluidic device. In general, microfluidic devices are sufficiently easy to fabricate, control, and monitor that they form an ideal platform for developing high dimensional spatio-temporal models for simultaneously coupling with experimentation.\ud \ud As chemical microreactors already promise low raw materials wastage through tight control of reagent contacting, improved design techniques should be able to augment optimal control systems to achieve very low resource wastage. In this paper, we discuss how the paradigm for optimal modelling and experimentation should be developed and foreshadow the exploitation of this methodology for the development of chemical microreactors and microfluidic sensors for online monitoring of chemical processes. Improvement in both of these areas bodes to improve the sustainability of chemical processes through innovative technology. (C) 2008 The Institution of Chemical Engineers. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.\u

Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2009
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