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Keywords:

  • optimization;
  • process control;
  • numerical solutions

Optimal control has guided numerous applications in chemical engineering, and exact determination of optimal profiles is essential for operation of separation and reactive processes, and operating strategies and recipe generation for batch processes. Here, a simultaneous collocation formulation based on moving finite elements is developed for the solution of a class of optimal control problems. Novel features of the algorithm include the direct location of breakpoints for control profiles and a termination criterion based on a constant Hamiltonian profile. The algorithm is stabilized and performance is significantly improved by decomposing the overall nonlinear programming (NLP) formulation into an inner problem, which solves a fixed element simultaneous collocation problem, and an outer problem, which adjusts the finite elements based on several error criteria. This bilevel formulation is aided by a NLP solver (the interior point optimizer) for both problems as well as an NLP sensitivity component, which provides derivative information from the inner problem to the outer problem. This approach is demonstrated on 11 dynamic optimization problems drawn from the optimal control and chemical engineering literature. © 2014 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 60: 966–979, 2014