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A nonequilibrium thermodynamics perspective on nature-inspired chemical engineering processes

Abstract : Nature-inspired chemical engineering (NICE) is promising many benefits in terms of energy consumption, resilience and efficiencyetc.but it struggles to emerge as a leading discipline, chiefly because of the misconception that mimicking Nature is sufficient. It is not, since goals and constrained context are different. Hence, revealing context and understanding the mechanisms of nature-inspiration should be encouraged. In this contribution we revisit the classification of three published mechanisms underlying nature-inspired engineering, namely hierarchical transport network, force balancing and dynamic self-organization, by setting them in a broader framework supported by nonequilibrium thermodynamics, the constructal law and nonlinear control concepts. While the three mechanisms mapping is not complete, the NET and CL joint framework opens also new perspectives. This novel perspective goes over classical chemical engineering where equilibrium based assumptions or linear transport phenomena and control are the ruling mechanisms in process unit design and operation. At small-scale level, NICE processes should sometimes consider advanced thermodynamic concepts to account for fluctuations and boundary effects on local properties. At the process unit level, one should exploit out-of-equilibrium situations with thermodynamic coupling under various dynamical states, be it a stationary state or a self-organized state. Then, nonlinear phenomena, possibly provoked by operating larger driving force to achieve greater dissipative flows, might occur, controllable by using nonlinear control theory. At the plant level, the virtual factory approach relying on servitization and modular equipment proposes a framework for knowledge and information management that could lead to resilient and agile chemical plants, especially biorefineries.
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Vincent Gerbaud, Nataliya Shcherbakova, Sergio da Cunha. A nonequilibrium thermodynamics perspective on nature-inspired chemical engineering processes. Chemical Engineering Research and Design, Elsevier, 2019, 154, pp.316-330. ⟨10.1016/j.cherd.2019.10.037⟩. ⟨hal-02648825⟩



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