(C) Peter Singstad 2017Cybernetica: Predictive approach to batch processing of polymers, steel, or silicon metal

Peter Singstad, Managing Director and Founder of Norwegian Cybernetica AS resumes the experience with COOPOL (Control and Real-Time Optimisation of Intensive Polymerisation Processes), a EU-R&D project focused on development of software and sensors for batch production and emulsion polymerization. The follow-up project is RECOBA (cross-sectorial real-time sensing, advanced control and optimisation of batch processes saving energy and raw materials) which ends December 2017.

Achieving peak performance

Many polymers are produced in batches, Singstad explains. “This means that you have a large vessel, you fill the reactants in, and you make the reactions run,” he says. To achieve the required quality in the shortest time possible without wasting energy or materials, it pays to know how to compensate for the variations. To reach this level of control, manufacturers need ongoing updates on the status of the process and precise calculations of any adjustments that may be needed. Direct measurements are available for variables such as temperature and flow rate, Singstad notes. “Unfortunately, what we can detect is not what we want to measure,” he adds. “What we really need to know is how the composition of the reaction mixture is evolving and how much of the material has already converted to a polymer. Sophisticated software is used to infer this information from the data at our disposal.”

A predictive approach

The data and the indirect measurements derived from it are considered alongside information from elaborate mathematical models that predict what is going on inside the reactor, enabling the controls to take automatic corrective action as necessary. The approach was successfully trialled on a reactor at a BASF pilot plant, Singstad reports. Coopol also looked into the possibility of producing polymers in a continuous stream rather than in individual batches, Singstad adds. This method would make it possible to run polymerisation processes in smaller reactors where they could be controlled with even greater precision. The project developed an experimental tubular reactor that successfully demonstrated the principle, he notes.
Coopol ended in February 2015, having delivered new tools that are already available to customers as an upgrade to an existing model predictive control system commercialised by Cybernetica, along with leads for new instrumentation and reactors that may soon take polymerisation another step ahead. Work on the mathematical models created by Coopol continues in Recoba, a new EU-funded project dedicated to batch processes for the production of emulsion polymers, steel, and silicon metal.

(C) RECOBA Consortium 2016

Footnotes

The original Coopol account has been published January 5, 2017: http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?artid=42616.

RECOBA project details can be accessed: http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/193424_en.html.

Source: Cybernetica AS, Recoba, Coopol 

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