The main interest of our research group is the application of Process Systems Engineering principles for the design and operation of chemical processes. In particular, the design of processes that are efficient with the use of basic resources has been an active field.
On energy issues, we have developed methods for the design of energy-efficient distillation systems. Other efforts have resulted in methods to integrate the heat content of hot process streams with cold process streams so as to design a heat exchanger network for energy integration. On the use of water, we have developed methods for the synthesis of mass and property integration networks, which minimize both the consumption of fresh water and the amount of wastewater generated by the process.
The application of process control techniques has been particularly applied to thermally coupled distillation systems. We have shown that, contrary to earlier expectations, the control properties of such system compete favorably with those of conventional distillation sequences. Extensions of thermally coupled systems to multicomponent and nonideal mixtures are part of our current interest.
Another recent effort deals with the use of shale gas as a raw material for the production of chemicals in addition to its use as an energy source.
We have been involved in developing a framework to include inherent safety during the design stage of chemical processes. Typically, safety is addressed after a process was been fully design or is already in operation. In addition to economic evaluation, we seek to integrate proper safety metrics as part of the design of the process. It may happen that the most economical design is not the safest option, and this approach of including both components gives a more complete basis under which a given design should be chosen.
Process intensification is a research field that has been considered with special attention in recent years. We have been working on developing a methodology that gradually transforms a given conventional flowsheet, based on conventional reactors and separation systems, into a fully intensified structure, with the minimum number of pieces of equipment. We have also included inherent safety metrics into our methodology. Extensions of this approach to different types of processes are under way.
In general, the search for methods and applications of Process Systems Engineering principles for the formulation of relevant and novel problems is a continuous effort from our research group.