Optimised control of chemical and biochemical production processes

Press Release No. 193/2012
23 August 2012
Dortmund and Heidelberg researchers’ project receives ERC funding

A 3.5 million euro grant from the European Research Council (ERC) has launched the joint MOBOCON project of the Technical University Dortmund and Heidelberg University. The aim of the five-year research project is to take innovative approaches to the control of chemical and biochemical production facilities and make them suitable for broad industrial use. Complex models and mathematical optimisation procedures are to aid in realising energy-efficient, resource-conserving, reliable and cost-efficient operation of controlled industrial processes over the long term even in the face of changes to the facility or raw materials. The project is being financed with funding from an ERC Advanced Grant, whose joint applicants were Prof. Dr. Sebastian Engell of the Department of Biochemical and Chemical Engineering of TU Dortmund and Dr. Hans Georg Bock of the Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing (IWR) of Ruperto Carola.

The two scientists emphasise that the innovation potential of their project, entitled “Model-based optimising control – from a vision to industrial reality” (MOBOCON), lies in the application of innovative methods of control technology and scientific computing in complex controlled industrial processes such as those used in biorefineries and high-grade plastics plants. “We want to develop the potential of new chemical and biochemical processes by applying mathematical models and intelligent computing methods”, explains Prof. Bock, who heads the Simulation and Optimisation Working Group at the IWR. To be able to transfer this approach from research to industrial use, the reliability and robustness of the optimisation algorithms need to be increased and methods developed for monitoring complex control processes. Another area of research addresses new concepts for the interaction between system operators and computer-based control to increase the acceptance of the methodology and incorporate operator knowledge into the optimisation.

The results of the research project funded with the ERC Advanced Investigator Grant will be applied and tested in a pilot facility at TU Dortmund. The project will also study complex scenarios such as start-up and shut-down. “What makes the new methods particularly attractive is that they can be used for almost all processes in which materials react or are converted, whether they are chemicals, plastics, metals, glass, food or beverages,” explains Prof. Engell, Chair of Process Dynamics and Operations in the Department of Biochemical and Chemical Engineering at TU Dortmund. The Dortmund researcher and his Heidelberg colleague Hans Georg Bock have already been working together for some time on multiple projects funded by the German Research Foundation, which is where the seeds for the ERC MOBOCON project were sown. Work on the new project has already begun.

The European Research Council (ERC) supports top researchers in the advancement of basic research and visionary projects and the development of new interdisciplinary fields of knowledge. The funding lines include the ERC Advanced Investigator Grant, awarded to outstanding researchers based on their previous achievements and innovative project ideas.

For more information on the MOBOCON project, go to

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Sebastian Engell

Chair of Process Dynamics and Operations
Department of Biochemical and Chemical Engineering

Technical University Dortmund

Phone: +49 6231 755-5127

Dr. Andreas Potschka

Heidelberg University

Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing

Phone: +49 6221 54-8833

Communications and Marketing

Press Office
Phone +49 6221 54-2311

Editor: Email
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