Technical systems of ever increasing complexity change our environment to a dramatic extent. Research on these systems is ultimately triggered by the key
question: How can the Earth's resources be better utilized in the future?
In the past decades, continuous progress in increasing the productivity, selectivity and sustainability of chemical and biotechnological production processes
has been made. Nevertheless, in order to cope with the challenges of the future, breakthroughs in process systems engineering are necessary in order to find
"dream processes" for synthesizing chemicals and transforming energy, to enable the transition from fossil fuels and petrochemical feedstocks to renewable materials
and energy, to close carbon dioxide cycles, to enhance efficiency significantly, and to incorporate new functionality in materials and products.
For this purpose, new scientifically founded process engineering approaches need to be developed, able to deal with the inherent multi-level structure of
production systems (see Fig. 1). Very efficient process systems might be designable if engineers succeed to consider all hierarchical levels involved in a process
system simultaneously, i.e. from the molecular level up to the plant level. But a multi-level design strategy will be successful only if the underlying sub-models
are validated by use of reliable experimental data obtained at different levels of the process hierarchy. Experimental data are an indispensable element required to
discriminate between rival models and to identify model parameters with small uncertainties. Hence, only by closely combining mathematical process models and
experimental data, an advanced quantitative understanding of complex process systems can be attained for opening new paths to translate fundamental science into
Furthermore, due to unique features such as specificity, adaptivity or reproduction, biological parts (enzymes, organelles, cells, cellular communities) are
expected to play an important role in the future chemical production and energy conversion systems. In other words, the future "tool box" of process engineers
should not only contain chemical and physical "screw drivers", but also biological devices. Establishing these devices as engineering tools might become reality
if process systems engineering principles can be successfully combined with upcoming synthetic biology approaches.
Project groups and subprojects:
Fig. 1: Survey of research areas and projects of the PSE group.