Floudas’ research article featured on cover of AIChE journal

Global grand challenges facing the energy and environmental sectors are highlighted by governmental, intergovernmental and corporate entities. They hinge on concerns related to energy security, energy affordability and the generation of lower-carbon energy. Multi-scale systems engineering has focused on addressing several of these challenges across scales that vary temporally and/or spatially through the use of principal engineering components: modeling, design, synthesis, simulation and optimization.

Professor Christodoulos A. Floudas, director of the Texas A&M Energy Institute and Erle Nye ‘59 Chair Professor for Engineering Excellence in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, along with graduate students Alexander M. Niziolek, Onur Onel and Logan R. Matthews, highlight key research areas that multi-scale systems engineering has and continues to address in the March 2016 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Journal Perspective article. The article, “Multi-Scale Systems Engineering for Energy and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities,” is featured as the cover of the AIChE Journal and focuses on CO2 capture, utilization and storage; renewable energy; natural gas-based processes; and production of valuable chemicals.

Each key area demonstrates the significant progress made by multi-scale systems engineering toward an environmentally sustainable energy economy. Computational methods have made it possible to accurately predict properties of CO2 mixtures and design novel materials for CO2 separations, which naturally lends itself to design more efficient carbon capture and sequestration processes. Furthermore, the development of efficient and cost-effective renewable processes has shown the potential to achieve remarkable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The increased focus on natural gas in multi-scale systems engineering has led to significant contributions in methane purification, reactor network design, optimal natural gas conversion and blueprints for the strategic deployment of gas-to-liquids refineries. These contributions are attributed to the rapid development of shale gas reserves in the United States. Finally, in response to the expected future growth of the chemicals industry, multi-scale systems engineering techniques have aided in the development of flexible and selective processes for chemicals production from various feedstocks, such as shale gas.

As the perspective article demonstrates, multi-scale systems engineering has and will lead researchers to breakthroughs that address challenges related to energy and the environment. The list of influential directions that stem from the emergence of multi-scale systems engineering includes (1) the growth of renewable energy; (2) new processes for carbon dioxide capture, utilization and storage; and (3) multi-scale methods for design, simulation and optimization of energy processes, among others. The tools, frameworks and methodologies developed lay a solid foundation to address the next generation of challenges, which include the food, energy and water nexus; uncertainty quantification in energy systems; and the intermittency of various renewable sources.

The full reference to the article is shown below:

Floudas, C. A.; Niziolek, A. M.; Onel, O.; Matthews, L. R. Multi-scale systems engineering for energy and the environment: Challenges and opportunities. AIChE Journal 2016, 62 (3), 602-623. doi:10.1002/aic.15151