Engineering applies scientific understanding and mathematical principles to meet practical needs, and is commonly expected to enhance human well-being. For such expectations to be met, engineered products and processes should not only be economically viable, but also be environmentally sustainable. This realization is encouraging forward-looking businesses, governments and individuals to work towards enhancing the environmental sustainability of their activities. Many businesses are discovering that such efforts can provide a competitive advantage, encourage innovation, and enhance enterprise resilience, all of which can translate into significant economic and societal benefits.
The traditional focus of process systems engineering (PSE) has been on the design and operation of individual equipment and processes. In recent years, systems at larger scales such as supply chains and the business enterprise, and at smaller scales such as molecular and atomic systems, have become part of PSE research (Westerberg and Grossmann, 2000). In our view, the quest for sustainability requires further expansion of the PSE boundary to consider the value chain, economy, and ecological systems in decision making. This introduces many new challenges and motivates our research.
Research Goals and Typical Projects
Our research aims to develop and apply scientifically sound and theoretically rigorous methods, tools and techniques for improving the efficiency and sustainability of engineered products and processes. We focus on problems at and across different temporal and spatial scales, ranging from individual equipment and processes to the economy and ecosystems, as depicted in the figure. Projects with a narrowly defined boundary mainly emphasize economic viability and are relevant to tactical decision making, while those at coarser scales also focus on broader impacts on the economy and the environment, and are relevant to strategic decision making (Bakshi and Fiksel, 2003).
Examples of problems that have been the subject of our past or current research include the following:
- Designing networks of technological systems and supporting ecosystem services
- Accounting for the role of ecosystem services in the life cycle of economic activities
- Thermodynamics and sustainability
- Life cycle evaluation of emerging technologies (nanotechnology, fuels, etc.)
- Statistical framework for life cycle assessment
- Bayesian rectification and estimation in nonlinear dynamic systems
- Linear and nonlinear empirical modeling
- Process monitoring
Most projects are multidisciplinary in nature and utilize methods from fields such as, Statistics, Operations Research, Thermodynamics, Systems Ecology, and Economics. This web site provides more details about specific projects, publications, group members and other related activities.