Developing engineering solutions through life cycle thinking
In ES2-Lab, we are interested in leading the research area of sustainable process systems engineering by:
- Developing advanced mathematical tools underpinned by life cycle thinking for the assessment and optimisation of more sustainable processes
- Promoting the widespread use of these methods in a wide variety of applications to facilitate the transition towards a more sustainable economy
Aras of particular interest include:
- Sustainability assessment of systems according to multiple criteria
- Modelling of uncertainties and stochastic programming
- Large-scale multi-objective optimisation of complex systems
- Integration of multi-criteria decision-making and multi-objective optimisation
- Simulation-optimisation for process design
Green Supply Chain Management
Green Supply chain management (SCM)
Supply Chain Management (SCM) looks for the integration of a plant with its suppliers and its customers to be managed as a whole, and the co-ordination of all the input/output flows (materials, information and finances) so that products are produced and distributed at the right quantities, to the right locations, and at the right time. The main objective is to achieve suitable economic results together with the desired consumer satisfaction levels. The SCM problem may be considered at different levels depending on the planning horizon and the detail of the analysis: strategic, tactical and operational. We are at present developing multi-objective models for SCM problems that reduce their life cycle impact through the adoption of appropriate mitigation strategies and cleaner technologies. These models are being applied in a wide variety of problems, with emphasis on biofuels supply chains and energy systems.
Sustainable Process Design
Sustainable Process Design
Process design has a great impact on the sustainability performance of chemical processes, as the most critical decisions are taken at the early stages of the process development. We are following two main approaches to improve the sustainability level of chemical processes: superstructure optimisation and simulation-optimisation algorithms. Our models account for several economic, environmental and social metrics that are assessed in the face of multiple uncertainties.
Other applications in sustainability
Short-cut methods of environmental impact
Current LCA repositories contain information of a limited number of chemicals. Through the development of short-cut methods of sustainability performance, we can estimate the environmental impact of chemicals currently missing in LCA databases, thereby enabling the fast screening of alternative chemical routes. To build our models, we combine mathematical programming with multi-variate statistical methods in order to identify key structural and thermodynamic properties of a chemical most strongly connected to its environmental performance.
Assessment of chemical products and processes: Identifying the most efficient processes
Problems arising in sustainable engineering are inherently multi-criteria. Using the concept of efficiency and applying data envelopment analysis, we can analyse trade-offs between conflictive goals in a systematic manner. This allows us to identify the best performing solutions while establishing improvement targets for the suboptimal ones.
Macro-economic models: Systems optimisation combined with input-output
At the macro-economic level, we are applying systems thinking underpinned by optimisation to provide integral solutions for global sustainability challenges. Here, we combine optimisation with input-output tables, the latter being used to describe monetary flows between countries and the corresponding environmental burdens embodied in them. This integrated approach allows us to identify solutions that decrease the impact globally with minimum impact on the countries' GDPs.