Systematic optimization and experimental validation of simulated moving bed chromatography systems for ternary separations and equilibrium limited reactions
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Simulated Moving Bed (SMB) chromatography is a separation process where the components are separated due to their varying affinity towards the stationary phase. Over the past decade, many modifications have been proposed in SMB chromatography in order to effectively separate a binary mixture. However, the separation of multi-component mixtures using SMB is still one of the major challenges. Although many different strategies have been proposed, previous studies have rarely performed comprehensive investigations for finding the best ternary separation strategy from various possible alternatives. Furthermore, the concept of combining reaction with SMB has been proposed in the past for driving the equilibrium limited reactions to completion by separating the products from the reaction zone. However, the design of such systems is still challenging due to the complex dynamics of simultaneous reaction and adsorption. The first objective of the study is to find the best ternary separation strategy among various alternatives design of SMB. The performance of several ternary SMB operating schemes, that are proposed in the literature, are compared in terms of the optimal productivity obtained and the amount of solvent consumed. A multi- objective optimization problem is formulated which maximizes the SMB productivity and purity of intermediate eluting component at the same time. Furthermore, the concept of optimizing a superstructure formulation is proposed, where numerous SMB operating schemes can be incorporated into a single formulation. This superstructure approach has a potential to find more advantageous operating scheme compared to existing operating schemes in the literature. The second objective of the study is to demonstrate the Generalized Full Cycle (GFC) operation experimentally for the first time, and compare its performance to the JO process. A Semba OctaveTM chromatography system is used as an experimental SMB unit to implement the optimal operating schemes. In addition, a simultaneous optimization and model correction (SOMC) scheme is used to resolve the model mismatch in a systematic way. We also show a systematic comparison of both JO and GFC operations by presenting a Pareto plot of the productivity achieved against the desired purity of the intermediate eluting component experimentally. The third objective of the study is to develop an simulated moving bed reactor (SMBR) process for an industrial-scale application, and demonstrate the potential of the ModiCon operation for improving the performance of the SMBR compared to the conventional operating strategy. A novel industrial application involving the esterification of acetic acid and 1-methoxy-2-propanol is considered to produce propylene glycol methyl ether (PMA) as the product. A multi-objective optimization study is presented to find the best reactive separation strategy for the production of the PMA product. We also present a Pareto plot that compares the ModiCon operation, which allows periodical change of the feed composition and the conventional operating strategy for the optimal production rate of PMA that can be achieved against the desired conversion of acetic acid.