Circular process design
Our society needs to be smarter. Today we must consider the whole lifecycle of our resources. For example closing the cycle on plastics could reduce import dependency by 80% in terms of fossil fuels for plastics production. Together with steel, aluminum and cement, plastics have been identified as one of the most promising materials to reduce our carbon footprint in Europe. Fundamental changes are needed in all these parts of the process industry, in particular in the design of these processes where exergy analysis, resource efficiency and life cycle analysis are fed by fundamental process simulation data that account accurately for the important chemical and physical phenomena on different scales. This more circular, and smarter economy has tremendous potential for Europe and in particular Flanders because of its population density and existing logistics infrastructure.
Scale-up is thus based on the fundamental understanding of processes using first principles based process simulation and design, a key expertise within the Centre for Sustainable Chemistry (CSC: https://www.csc.ugent.be & Elisabeth Delbeke(external link)). The developed simulation models are generated automatically, use primarily ab-initio derived thermodynamic and kinetic data, are applied with in-house developed solvers (e.g. COILSIM1D: https://www.avgi.be), and can be even coupled with Fluent or OpenFOAM. Success stories are not limited to: chemical recycling of plastic waste, biomass fast pyrolysis, steam cracking for olefin production, gasification, catalytic cracking, polymer production, etc.
The new research challenges, both fundamentally and on the process side are:
- How do you scale-up a technology in a sustainable way?
- How can you transfer data from lab scale to industrial scale and what is the accuracy?
- How can product compositions be measured on-line for hetero atom containing mixtures?
- How do we develop simulation tools that give users accurate results within fractions of seconds?
- How can we characterize complex solid and liquid feedstocks and relate this with detailed models?
- How do you quantify uncertainty on model and experimental data?
- Can we implement detailed kinetic models in CFD simulations?
- Can we measure intrinsic kinetics of thermochemical process starting from solids?
- How is turbulence reliably modeled?
- How can we make compact kinetic models automatically?
- Can we do on-the fly ab-initio calculations?