Self-optimising processes and real-time-optimisation of organic syntheses in a microreactor system using Nelder–Mead and design of experiments†
Optimisation problems are abundant both in lab and industrial chemistry, where the determination of ideal reaction conditions poses particular challenges. This work contributes to the extant research on self-optimisation by developing a modular, autonomous platform that performs multi-variate and multi-objective optimisations in real-time, thereby generating cost and time savings. The platform consists of a fully-automated microreactor setup that is equipped with real-time reaction monitoring (through inline FT-IR spectroscopy) and a self-optimisation procedure. To demonstrate its flexibility (which extends to industrial production settings), the performances (in terms of identifying optimal reaction conditions) of two common optimisation strategies, modified simplex algorithm and model-free design of experiments, are subsequently compared. Besides enabling model-free autonomous optimisation, this novel system also permits the simultaneous collection of kinetic data to gain further insights into the involved chemical processes. In a second step, the system is enhanced to become capable of providing real-time responses to disturbances to the chemical process. Thus, this work assists researchers and production engineers alike in selecting the most suitable strategy for a given optimisation scenario, while also counteracting potential malfunctions in chemical production processes.