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Abstract

A control system is designed for a copolymerization reactor using a combination of feedforward, ratio, and feedback control to regulate polymer production rate, copolymer composition, molecular weight, and reactor temperature. The solution copolymerization of methyl methacrylate and vinyl acetate in a continuous stirred tank reactor is used as an illustrative example with the kinetic parameters and reactor operating conditions obtained from the literature. The process includes equipment to recycle unreacted monomers and solvent. The recycle stream introduces disturbances to the reactor feed, which perturb the polymer properties. A feedforward control strategy is proposed to counter these disturbances, and its effectiveness is demonstrated using the model. The mathematical model is used to investigate input/output control pairings in order to identify the fundamental nature of the solution copolymerization control problem and to determine the best control system structure. The combined feedforward/feedback strategy is tested on a nonlinear model of the process for set point changes and compensation of unmeasured reactor disturbances. The performance of the control system design was quite good, and such designs have been found successful in plant operations.