• dynamic optimization;
  • grade transition;
  • molecular weight distribution

To achieve different end-use properties of polymers, an industrial plant must produce several grades of the product through the same process under different operating conditions. As molecular weight distribution (MWD) is a crucial quality index of polymers, grade transition based on MWD is of great importance. Dynamic optimization of the grade transition process using MWD is a challenging task because of its large-scale nature. After analyzing the relationships among state variables during polymerization, a novel method is proposed to conduct the optimal grade transition using dynamic optimization with a small-scale moment model, combined with a steady-state calculation of the MWD. By avoiding expensive computation in dealing with dynamic MWD optimization, this technique greatly reduces the computational complexity of the process optimization. The theoretical equivalence of this simplification is also proved. Finally, an industrial high-density polyethylene slurry process is presented to demonstrate the efficiency and accuracy of the proposed strategy. © 2014 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 60: 2498–2512, 2014