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Keywords:

  • multicomponent distillation;
  • distillation sequences;
  • distillation configurations;
  • less than n-1 columns;
  • matrix method

Abstract

An easy-to-use matrix-based method for the systematic synthesis of distillation configurations using less than n-1 columns to separate any zeotropic n-component feed into n product streams is described. The method is easily extended to obtain additional thermally coupled configurations. The only information needed to generate the configurations is the number of components in the feed, or equivalently, the number of distinct composition final product streams. We have successfully enumerated configurations for feeds containing up to eight components. This has resulted in a large number of hitherto unknown configurations even for four-component separations. Some of the novel configurations generated using the method have substantially lower heat duty than the previously known fewer column configurations for a four-component feed separation. Therefore, it is essential to include these novel configurations in the search space to find the optimal distillation configuration with fewer columns for a given application. © 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 58: 2479–2494, 2012