Model-based design principles have received considerable attention in biotechnology and the chemical industry over the last two decades. However, parameter uncertainties of first-principle models are critical in model-based design and have led to the development of robustification concepts. Various strategies have been introduced to solve the robust optimization problem. Most approaches suffer from either unreasonable computational expense or low approximation accuracy. Moreover, they are not rigorous and do not consider robust optimization problems where parameter correlation and equality constraints exist. In this work, we propose a highly efficient framework for solving robust optimization problems with the so-called point estimation method (PEM). The PEM has a fair trade-off between computational expense and approximation accuracy and can be easily extended to problems of parameter correlations. From a statistical point of view, moment-based methods are used to approximate robust inequality and equality constraints for a robust process design. We also apply a global sensitivity analysis to further simplify robust optimization problems with a large number of uncertain parameters. We demonstrate the performance of the proposed framework with two case studies: (1) designing a heating/cooling profile for the essential part of a continuous production process; and (2) optimizing the feeding profile for a fed-batch reactor of the penicillin fermentation process. According to the derived results, the proposed framework of robust process design addresses uncertainties adequately and scales well with the number of uncertain parameters. Thus, the described robustification concept should be an ideal candidate for more complex (bio)chemical problems in model-based design.
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