Chemical processes with complex reaction mechanisms generally lead to dynamic models which, while beneficial for predicting and capturing the detailed process behavior, are not readily amenable for direct use in online applications related to process operation, optimisation, control, and troubleshooting. Surrogate models can help overcome this problem. In this research article, the first part focuses on obtaining surrogate models for emulsion copolymerization of nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR), which is usually produced in a train of continuous stirred tank reactors. The predictions and/or profiles for several performance characteristics such as conversion, number of polymer particles, copolymer composition, and weight-average molecular weight, obtained using surrogate models are compared with those obtained using the detailed mechanistic model. In the second part of this article, optimal flow profiles based on dynamic optimisation using the surrogate models are obtained for the production of NBR emulsions with the objective of minimising the off-specification product generated during grade transitions.
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