"Decision making and uncertainty” lie at the core of the 5th IMPRS Summer School

September 05, 2017

The Summer School has attracted more than fifty participants from August 28th to September 1st to the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems Magdeburg. The focus was on the currently intensively investigated topic of “Decision making and uncertainty”. Thus, several experts from the industry and the academic fields of Applied Mathematics and System Engineering offered the participants a glimpse on new research trends in core areas. Not only throughout the lectures, but also during practical exercises the participants were able to test newly acquired scientific knowledge in praxis and exchange ideas for current and future implementation in their own scientific projects. The Summer School was organized by the International Max Planck Research School for Advanced Methods in Process and Systems Engineering Magdeburg (IMPRS).

After an intensive week of lectures and practical tutorials conducted by renowned speakers from Pittsburgh, Toronto, London, Zurich, Berlin and Magdeburg, the 5th IMPRS Summer School came to an end on Friday, September 1st, 2017. The speakers gave a glimpse on how the industry applies theoretical models in decision making, such as in medical research or in engine design.

In their research assignments, the doctoral students of the IMPRS Magdeburg, most of them trained process engineers and mathematicians, focus on existing and new complex chemical or biotechnological production processes. The process parameters involved, as well as the dynamics of the processes in various configurations, are to be mathematically modeled and understood. Therefore, the mathematical optimization of these models is a central component of engineering sciences – apart from scientific theoretical examination and experimental investigation.

For example, in order to precisely predict the efficiency of an industrial process the uncertainties of model parameters and process input variables have to be taken into consideration. Taking these uncertainties into account is a major challenge in Process Systems Engineering, mainly when more complex structures and systems are to be designed. For this purpose, the Ph. D. students gained valuable stimuli during the Summer School.

Jennifer Uebbing, 25, has earned her masters’ degree in Mathematics at the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg. Since August 2017 she is a member of the IMPRS. She is conducting research within a project, in which concepts for the storage of electricity from renewable energies have to be developed in cooperation with regional energy producers and suppliers. In order to achieve the goal of an energy efficient process, the mathematical optimization of power-to-gas processes is a key element.

Jennifer Uebbing is going to analyze various system configurations using a computer model, to assemble a complete process on the computer and to find the parameters that give the best results with regard to the energy that can ultimately be used. For her, the mathematical uncertainty means "not exactly knowing for how long electricity will be available. At this point, unknown quantities must be estimated. For me, it was particularly interesting to see how different conditions on these variables influence the mathematical model", she says.

For Jens Bremer, 29, the Summer School gave "new incentives and ideas” for the implementation of his project. He studied Energy and Process Engineering at the Technical University in Berlin. Since October 2014 he is a member of the IMPRS, where he is also active as a student representative. In his doctoral thesis, he studies a methanation reactor. For that purpose, he has developed a reactor model with which the dynamic behaviour of the catalytic conversion to methane can be described. Although his model is fed with physical assumptions, the reality can never be exactly described. In other words, certain conditions in the reactor cannot be measured. One approach is to take this uncertainty between mathematical model and reality into account in order to minimize any errors that may arise. "Studying uncertainties can help to get closer to reality", declares Bremer. During the Summer School, he was particularly interested in the lecture given by Prof. Ignacio E. Grossmann of the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA, who is an icon in Process Systems Engineering.

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