Systematic process development by simultaneous modeling and optimization of simulated moving bed chromatography
Bentley, Jason A.
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Adsorption separation processes are extremely important to the chemical industry, especially in the manufacturing of food, pharmaceutical, and fine chemical products. This work addresses three main topics: first, systematic decision-making between rival gas phase adsorption processes for the same separation problem; second, process development for liquid phase simulated moving bed chromatography (SMB); third, accelerated startup for SMB units. All of the work in this thesis uses model-based optimization to answer complicated questions about process selection, process development, and control of transient operation. It is shown in this thesis that there is a trade-off between productivity and product recovery in the gaseous separation of enantiomers using SMB and pressure swing adsorption (PSA). These processes are considered as rivals for the same separation problem and it is found that each process has a particular advantage that may be exploited depending on the production goals and economics. The processes are compared on a fair basis of equal capitol investment and the same multi-objective optimization problem is solved with equal constraints on the operating parameters. Secondly, this thesis demonstrates by experiment a systematic algorithm for SMB process development that utilizes dynamic optimization, transient experimental data, and parameter estimation to arrive at optimal operating conditions for a new separation problem in a matter of hours. Comparatively, the conventional process development for SMB relies on careful system characterization using single-column experiments, and manual tuning of operating parameters, that may take days and weeks. The optimal operating conditions that are found by this new method ensure both high purity constraints and optimal productivity are satisfied. The proposed algorithm proceeds until the SMB process is optimized without manual tuning. In some case studies, it is shown with both linear and nonlinear isotherm systems that the optimal performance can be reached in only two changes of operating conditions following the proposed algorithm. Finally, it is shown experimentally that the startup time for a real SMB unit is significantly reduced by solving model-based startup optimization problems using the SMB model developed from the proposed algorithm. The startup acceleration with purity constraints is shown to be successful at reducing the startup time by about 44%, and it is confirmed that the product purities are maintained during the operation. Significant cost savings in terms of decreased processing time and increased average product concentration can be attained using a relatively simple startup acceleration strategy.