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2015-2016 Research Projects

Optimal placement of gas detectors using dispersion simulations and stochastic programming

Motivation: Seventy percent of hydrocarbon incidents are fires and explosions; less than 50% of all known releases are detected by current systems.

Designing warning and safety systems considering uncertainties in leak location, weather, wind direction, process conditions and gas composition is a difficult task.

This research uses Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)-based dispersion simulations and rigorous mathematics to analyze optimal placement for hundreds or thousands of leak scenarios and potential detector locations.

Progress: Optimization algorithms complete accounting for both sensor unavailability and voting

Current/Future Work: Model selection and execution (input to optimization); end-to-end case study with industrial partner

Professor: Carl Laird


Synthesis of solid Lewis acids for safer catalytic oxidation reactions involving hydrogen peroxide

Motivation: Zeolite catalysts are prevalent in petroleum refining for transportation fuels. They are also widely used in acid-base catalyzed processes to make chemicals (75 of 125 processes use zeolite catalysts). In selective oxidations, certain catalyst structures can promote undesired byproducts leading to potential over-pressures and explosions. The goal is prevention through catalyst design: to control zeolite synthesis methods to form desired active sites and structures.

Progress: 4 publications (3 in progress), 15 presentations & 1 provisional patent application during 2 years of funding

Current/Future Work: Need to develop HF-free synthesis routes for zeolites, characterization techniques for nanoscale active sites in zeolites with fundamental understanding of catalysis and kinetics

Professors: Raj Gounder (PI), Fabio Ribeiro & Jeffrey Greeley


Fault tolerant control for safe plant operation

Motivation: Dusts (metal, food, drugs, ..) are a serious hazard. There were 281 dust fires & explosions in U.S. facilities between 1980-2005 resulting in 119 fatalities.

This project seeks to reduce process risks through control system design and analysis. Continuous manufacturing, such as with pharmaceuticals, requires efficient process monitoring and control. Real time process optimization modeling with predictive and adaptive controls across unit operations can dynamically reduce risk .

Current/Future Work: System demonstrated for continuous tablet production via simulation with pilot plant validation under development.

Professor: Zoltan Nagy


Advanced separation techniques for efficient use of safe solvents

Motivation: There is growing concern about the volume of non- recycled waste (~ 90%).

A new process, developed at Purdue, recovers high-quality polycarbonates and flame retardants from plastic waste. Highly-selective separations of three polymers in the waste are achieved using sequential mixed-solvent extraction. A highly-efficient simulated moving bed process was developed to separate flame retardants from polymers. More than 99.9% of the solvents can be recovered and reused, with minimal environmental impacts.

Current/Future Work: Concept demonstrated; awaiting funding for pilot testing. This method can also be used to recover pristine polymers and low molecular weight chemicals from other plastic waste.

Professor: Linda Wang