Many practical problems of interest in chemical engineering and other fields can be formulated as bilinear programs (BLPs). For such problems, a local nonlinear programming solver often provides a suboptimal solution or even fails to locate a feasible one. Numerous global optimization algorithms devised for bilinear programs rely on linear programming (LP) relaxation, which is often weak, and, thus, slows down the convergence rate of the global optimization algorithm. An interesting recent development is the idea of using an ab initio partitioning of the search domain to improve the relaxation quality, which results in a relaxation problem that is a mixed-integer linear program (MILP) rather than LP, called as piecewise MILP relaxation. However, much work is in order to fully exploit the potential of such approach. Several novel formulations are developed for piecewise MILP under- and overestimators for BLPs via three systematic approaches, and two segmentation schemes. As is demonstrated and evaluated the superiority of the novel models is shown, using a variety of examples. In addition, metrics are defined to measure the effectiveness of piecewise MILP relaxation within a two-level-relaxation framework, and several theoretical results are presented, as well as valuable insights into the properties of such relaxations, which may prove useful in developing global optimization algorithms. © 2008 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 2008
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