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Synergistic optimization framework for the process synthesis and design of biorefineries


The conceptual process design of novel bioprocesses in biorefinery setups is an important task, which remains yet challenging due to several limitations. We propose a novel framework incorporating superstructure optimization and simulation-based optimization synergistically. In this context, several approaches for superstructure optimization based on different surrogate models can be deployed. By means of a case study, the framework is introduced and validated, and the different superstructure optimization approaches are benchmarked. The results indicate that even though surrogate-based optimization approaches alleviate the underlying computational issues, there remains a potential issue regarding their validation. The development of appropriate surrogate models, comprising the selection of surrogate type, sampling type, and size for training and cross-validation sets, are essential factors. Regarding this aspect, satisfactory validation metrics do not ensure a successful outcome from its embedded use in an optimization problem. Furthermore, the framework’s synergistic effects by sequentially performing superstructure optimization to determine candidate process topologies and simulation-based optimization to consolidate the process design under uncertainty offer an alternative and promising approach. These findings invite for a critical assessment of surrogate-based optimization approaches and point out the necessity of benchmarking to ensure consistency and quality of optimized solutions.

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The authors would like to express their gratitude to the Novo Nordisk Foundation (Grant No. NNF17SA0031362) for funding the Fermentation-Based Biomanufacturing Initiative of which this project is a part.

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Correspondence to Gürkan Sin.

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Vollmer, N.I., Al, R., Gernaey, K.V. et al. Synergistic optimization framework for the process synthesis and design of biorefineries. Front. Chem. Sci. Eng. (2021).

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  • biotechnology
  • surrogate modelling
  • superstructure optimization
  • simulation-based optimization
  • process design