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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness 4 Benchmarking Results: Detailed Assessment of U.S. Leadership by Area of Chemical Engineering Chapter 3 provided an assessment of U.S. chemical engineering research at large. In this chapter we focus the assessment on each area/subarea of chemical engineering research. Based on the analysis of data regarding the composition of the VWC, publications and citations, patents, recognition of individual researchers through prizes and awards, and prevailing trends, the Panel compiled an overall assessment for each subarea in terms of the following two indices: Current Position of U.S. Research in Chemical Engineering Expected Future Position of U.S. Research in Chemical Engineering In assessing the future position of U.S. chemical engineering research the Panel took into consideration, in addition to the above, a set of key determinants of leadership, such as the following: intellectual quality of researchers and ability to attract talented researchers maintenance of strong, research-based graduate educational programs maintenance of strong technological infrastructure cooperation among government, industrial, and academic sectors adequate funding of research activities Table 4.45 summarizes the Panel’s assessment of the Current and Future Positions of U.S. Research Chemical Engineering in all subareas alongside the expected future trends.
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness The leadership determinants (ability to attract talented students, educational and research programs, technological infrastructure, cooperation among government, industry, and academia, and funding) and their (projection) are analyzed in Chapter 5. 4.1 AREA-1: ENGINEERING SCIENCE OF PHYSICAL PROCESSES This area encompasses research in the science and engineering of processes, which are characterized, primarily, by physical phenomena. It has been divided into the following five subareas: transport processes thermodynamics rheology separations solid particle processes 4.1.a Transport Processes The role of transport processes in chemical engineering has evolved from fundamental understanding and cutting edge/frontier research in the 1960s into two parallel fronts: one deepening fundamentals, the other evolving towards applications. It has also taken a role as a platform technology, with a presence in nearly all areas of chemical engineering, spanning from traditional processing (e.g., reactors, separation systems) to biological applications and materials. Transport phenomena, with or without chemical reaction, are at the heart of all processing systems at any scale (macro, micro, nano) and as such are at the very core of chemical engineering; indeed, in what may be a commonly held belief, they define chemical engineering. In defining the scope of this subarea we have considered traditional aspects of fluid mechanics, such as low Reynolds number flows and turbulent flows including multiphase flows; fluid-particle systems; all types of mass and heat transport, including chemically assisted mass transport; flows of complex fluids (connecting smoothly with rheology); flows induced by electric or magnetic fields (bridging with colloidal science); and transport at interfaces. Other aspects include a blend of research and practical considerations, such as numerical simulation for analysis and design as well as prediction of and correlations for transport properties. Topics of current importance have evolved towards fluid mechanics and mass transport at interfaces and small scales, as in microfluidics, nanoscale devices, molecular-level modeling of tribology, and biological molecules and living cells. Particulate and multiphase flows, interfacial flows, non-Newtonian fluid
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness mechanics, and flow mechanics of complex fluids and biomolecules remain subjects of intense research interest due to their intellectual challenge and broad range of potential applications. U.S. Position. The number of experts for the VWC in this area was five U.S. and two non-U.S. The percentage of U.S. participants in the Virtual Congress was 81% when multiple entries for the same person were allowed. This was among the highest representations in all subareas considered by this panel. The percentage was 77% when name duplication was disallowed, and indicates that several U.S. names appeared in multiple lists. These numbers point to strong U.S. leadership in transport. An analysis of names reveals that a significant number of the names are associated with “classical” fluid mechanics as opposed to mass transfer or energy transfer, which are clearly regarded today as mature areas in chemical engineering. A survey of the flagship journals in the fluid mechanics area, the Journal of Fluid Mechanics and Physics of Fluids reveals that the number of U.S. contributions, across disciplines, from 1990 to 2006, increased by a factor of 2, but its relative percentage was reduced by 9%, due to higher rates from, European Union (EU) and Asia (see Table 4.1). In terms of quality and the impact, U.S. contributions dominate (66%) the list of the 50 most-cited papers (Table 4.2). The chemical engineering contributions worldwide have more than doubled in number, maintaining roughly the same relative percentage, about 8% of the total papers. U.S. chemical engineering has dominated the chemical engineering contributions: 84% in the period 1990-1994 and 75% in the period of TABLE 4.1 Publications in Journal of Fluid Mechanics and Physics of Fluids 1990-1994 1995-1999 2000-2006 % % % Total Number of Papers 2,070 3,439 5,029 Total No. of U.S. Papers 1,174 57 1,836 53 2,300 46 Total No. of Chem. Eng. Papers 163 7.87 286 8.32 389 7.74 U.S., Chem. Eng. 143 87.73 245 85.66 289 74.29 EU, Chem. Eng. 6 3.68 19 6.64 48 12.34 Asia, Chem. Eng. 12 7.36 33 11.54 53 13.62 Canada, Chem. Eng. 7 4.29 9 3.15 9 2.31 S. America, Chem. Eng. 1 0.61 0 0.00 4 1.03 Internationalization (overlap) 3.68 6.99 3.60
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness TABLE 4.2 Distribution of the 50 Most-Cited Papers in Journal of Fluid Mechanics and Physics of Fluids 1990-1994 1995-1999 2000-2006 No. of U.S. Papers 36 30 33 No. of Chem. Eng. Papers 3 3 3 No. of U.S. Chem. Eng. Papers 3 2 3 (% share among chemical engineering papers) (100%) (66%) (100%) 2000-2006. In addition, all papers from chemical engineering researchers in the list of 50 most-cited papers for 2000-2006 come from the United States. These numbers are consistent with the dominant representation of U.S. chemical engineers in the Virtual World Congress for this subarea, and both indicate that the relative U.S. position is “Dominant, at the Forefront,” in relationship to chemical engineering research elsewhere in the world. The real competition comes from other disciplines, notably physics, applied mathematics, and mechanical engineering. Indeed, Table 4.2 indicates that only 6% of the 50 most-cited papers come from U.S. chemical engineering research. This is primarily due to the fact that chemical engineering research activities in fluid mechanics represent a small subset of this field. Analysis of the publications from mainstream journals of chemical engineering such as AIChE Journal, I&EC Research and Chemical Engineering Science indicates that in 1995 there were about 1.5 papers from U.S. authors for every paper from a non-U.S. author. This ratio has changed to about 0.5 to 0.6, following the significant increase in the research output from the European Union and Asia. It should be noted that a number of publications that in the past would have gone to classical journals, such as the Journal of Fluid Mechanics and Physics of Fluids, now go to more peripheral publications associated with niche areas, e.g., microfluidics. At the same time there has been a decrease in the number of publications in once classical and central areas of chemical engineering, such as two-phase flow, heat transfer, fluidization, and the like. The volume of research in these areas and the number of ensuing publications from Asian countries has increased substantially. Relative Strengths and Weaknesses. U.S. chemical engineering scholarly activities in transport phenomena have, until the mid 1980s, attracted some of the best talent in the United States and transport was considered to be a prestige area. Now, opportunities for long-range funding in pure fluid mechanics and fundamentals in mass transport are virtually nonexistent in the United States. This can have long-term negative consequences for chemical
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness engineering in the United States. Loss of transport strength will result in a loss of differentiation that has been critical for chemical engineering work across multiple areas, at a time when processing at the micro- and nano scale, formation of structured materials and their processing into a multitude of functional parts, the production of efficient energy devices (at any scale), and efficacy of a broad range of biomedical devices, may hinge on better understanding of the associated transport processes. With the exception of niche centers such as Stanford’s Center for Turbulence Research (largely dominated by mechanical engineering), the United States has surprisingly few large institutes wholly dedicated to fluid mechanics and mass transport, and even fewer with a significant component of chemical engineering. (There are, however, a few devoted to mixing, for example). Current U.S. research in transport tends to be concentrated on applications in fluid mechanics. Fluid mechanics in industry is dispersed throughout many areas, though recognizable pockets may include computational fluid mechanics, e.g., analysis and design of reactors with complex flows, heat and mass transport, as well as groups focused on fluid mechanics of suspensions, high-precision coating processes, mixing, and transport and reaction in heterogeneous and porous systems. Future Prospects. As the framework of transport phenomena developed and tools were created there was a migration outwards, and many areas that were once frontiers of transport research have become permanently integrated with many surrounding areas. It has become increasingly difficult to delineate the boundaries between transport and colloidal science, transport and solid/particulate systems, and transport and rheology. Significant advances have taken place over the last decade. Some of these advances have been in traditional areas such as simulation of multiphase and turbulent flows at single and multiple length and time scales, mixing, and coating flows. It is now possible to simulate efficiently suspensions and emulsions, and flow of non-Newtonian fluids for almost any admissible constitutive law, and to apply fundamental transport phenomena to a variety of practical microfluidic devices. New areas and opportunities lie at the intersection of transport and colloid science, e.g., cases involving sophisticated couplings of interparticle colloidal forces, and external fields and fluid mechanics. These ideas find application in the directed self-assembly of materials and separations as in electrophoresis, diffusiophoresis, induced-charge electrophoresis, and others. New challenges are arising in microrheology, as it is used to probe complex fluids and biological systems. The frontier areas of designing and making nanocomposites and nanoparticulate/polymer complex fluids require the simultaneous tailoring of transport, rheological, and mechanical properties. Another area of active research involves granular matter and
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness study of jamming, ageing and flow properties of glassy/disordered materials ranging from pastes to polymers to granular media. Panel’s Summary Assessment. The current U.S. position is at the “Forefront,” and the Panel expects that in the future it will be “Among World Leaders.” 4.1.b Thermodynamics Thermodynamics has evolved from the classical studies of estimating thermophysical properties and phase behavior of fluids that defined the field in the middle of the 20th century to a much more molecular and science-based field with a significantly broader range of applications. Experimental studies now examine new formulations of consumer products, e.g., refrigerants; new solvents as diverse as carbon dioxide and ionic liquids; degradation and stabilization of biological molecules, e.g., proteins, DNA, RNA; supercooled liquids and glasses; thermophysical properties of biological systems; structure and properties of polymers and blends; nucleation and growth; and others. Theoretical advances frequently follow application of the principles of statistical thermodynamics and, increasingly, quantum mechanics, to engineering problems. Molecular simulations are becoming quite entrenched and their predictive efficiency is progressing by leaps and bounds. Examples include improvements in the understanding of the properties of water; ab initio calculations of molecular interactions important in biological processes, e.g., complex immune systems, and estimation of thermophysical properties and phase behavior of biomolecules; computational studies of self-assembled systems at meso- and nano scale, e.g., copolymers, polymer blends, composites; theoretical and computational studies on nucleation/formation and growth of e.g., colloids, crystals, emulsions, foams; Thermodynamics is an integral part of the chemical engineering science base and underlies many traditional chemical engineering unit operations. As the academic interests and industrial emphasis have been shifting towards better understanding of molecular-level phenomena, thermodynamics is playing a key role in advance understanding of the molecular forces underlying molecular organization, self-assembly, and materials design, and in developing new media and their applications, such as environmentally benign solvents for dry cleaning; water-based dispersions of inks, dyes, and pigments for the electronic and automobile industries; and functional structured fluids for the personal care industry, home and office products industry, food industry, and other sectors. U.S. Position. In addition to the mainstream chemical engineering journals, such as AIChE Journal, I&EC Research and Chemical Engineering Science
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness other principal journals in this subarea include the Journal of Chemical Physics, Journal of Physical Chemistry B, Molecular Simulations, Fluid Phase Equilibria, and the Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics. In the first three journals, the relative contribution of U.S. chemical engineering researchers against non-US contributions has decreased from 3.5 U.S. papers per non-U.S. paper to about 1.0. Significant increases in submissions from European Union and Asian countries have been the main factor contributing to this change. In each of the latter five journals the U.S. contributions in the past few years across disciplines range from 15% to 40%, and in all cases contributions from the European Union are more numerous than those from the United States (Tables 4.3 and 4.4). Tables 4.5, 4.6, and 4.7 summarize the trends in chemical engineering contributions for the five journals. The numbers indicate that for the past 20 years chemical engineering papers have captured a roughly constant relative percentage of all publications, ranging from 4% to 30%. For the Journal of Chemical Physics and Journal of Physical Chemistry B the percentage contribution from chemical engineers worldwide has been increasing (from about 4% in 1990-1994 to over 7% in 2000-2006), but it remains at low levels, with contributions from chemists outnumbering those of chemical engineers by factors of 3 to 6. Tables 4.6 and 4.7 also indicate that the percentage contribution of U.S. chemical engineers has been decreasing over the past 20 years, e.g., from 40% to 23% (combined numbers TABLE 4.3 Publications in Three Area-Specific Journals for Thermodynamics J. of Chemical Physics J. of Physical Chemistry-B Molecular Simulations % U.S. U.S. Papers EU Papers % U.S. U.S. Papers EU Papers % U.S. U.S. Papers EU Papers 2003 40 1064 1311 30 27 35 2004 39 1048 1363 36 857 1093 29 23 46 2005 40 1110 1400 36 1169 1317 25 33 53 TABLE 4.4 Publications in Two Area-Specific Journals for Thermodynamics Fluid Phase Equilibria J. of Chemical Thermodynamics % U.S. U.S. Papers EU Papers % U.S. U.S. Papers EU Papers 2003 12 27 95 18 31 45 2004 19 50 107 16 21 25 2005 15 58 134 15 22 37
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness TABLE 4.5 Publication Trends in Journal of Chemical Physics and Journal of Physical Chemistry-B 1990-1994 1995-1999 2000-2006 % % % Total Number of Papers 9,672 15,582 30,064 No. of U.S. Papers 5,516 57.00 6,936 45.00 11,819 39.00 No. of Chem. Eng. Papers 369 3.82 866 5.56 2,182 7.26 TABLE 4.6 Publication Trends in Fluid Phase Equilibria and Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics 1990-1994 1995-1999 2000-2006 % % % Total Number of Papers 1,714 2,102 2,630 No. of U.S. Papers 430 25.00 432 21.00 439 17.00 No. of Chem. Eng. Papers 478 27.89 621 29.54 757 28.78 U.S., Chem. Eng. 191 39.96 209 33.66 178 23.51 EU, Chem. Eng. 83 17.36 115 18.52 166 21.93 Asia, Chem. Eng. 162 33.89 223 35.91 279 36.86 Canada, Chem. Eng. 52 10.88 49 7.89 44 5.81 S. America, Chem. Eng. 3 0.63 23 3.70 39 5.15 TABLE 4.7 Publication Trends in Molecular Simulations 1990-1994 1995-1999 2000-2006 % % % Total Number of Papers 159 220 496 No. of U.S. Papers 48 30.00 36 16.00 125 25.00 No. of Chem. Eng. Papers 26 16.35 19 8.64 74 14.92 U.S., Chem. Eng. 25 96.15 14 50.00 42 56.76 EU, Chem. Eng. 1 3.85 7 25.00 14 18.92 Asia, Chem. Eng. 1 3.85 6 21.40 23 31.08 Canada, Chem. Eng. 1 3.85 0 0.00 2 2.70 S. America, Chem. Eng. 0 0.00 1 3.60 1 1.35 for Fluid Phase Equilibria and Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics), and from 96% to 57% (Molecular Simulations). These reductions are primarily due to higher growth rates in other parts of the world, notably European Union and Asia. In terms of quality and impact, Table 4.8 summarizes the distribution of the 50 most-cited papers for three groups of journals. Overall, across
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness TABLE 4.8 Distribution of the 50 Most-Cited Papers for Combined Journal of Chemical Physics and Journal of Physical Chemistry-B, Combined Fluid Phase Equilibria and Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics and Molecular Simulations J. of Chemical Physics and J. of Physical Chemistry B Fluid Phase Equilibria and J. of Chemical Thermodynamics Molecular Simulations 1990-1994 1995-1999 2000-2006 1990-1994 1995-1999 2000-2006 1990-1994 1995-1999 2000-2006 No. of U.S. Papers 32 28 31 20 21 11 12 4 11 No. Chem. Eng. Papers 2 1 4 35 31 32 7 6 9 No. of U.S. Chem. Eng. Papers 2 1 4 17 13 7 5 3 8 (% share among chemical engineering papers) (100%) (100%) (100%) (50%) (42%) (28%) (70%) (50%) (89%)
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness disciplines, the United States possesses a position “Among the Leaders” with strong competition from the European Union. With respect to chemical engineering contributions, the United States is in a “Dominant, at the Forefront” position. Furthermore, when we take a close look at the list of the 100 most-cited papers (2000-2006) in chemical engineering at large, we notice that the field of thermodynamics is well represented in the list—two of the top three and three of the top five most-cited papers have thermodynamics as their subject. Pioneering papers in this field are published in top journals, including Nature, Science, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Two hundred seventeen participants were identified in the area of thermodynamics for the Virtual World Congress, and 68% of them were from the United States (61% when duplications were disallowed), which is about the same for the overall U.S. participation in the Virtual World Congress. This is in line with the numbers and impact of U.S. publications among chemical engineering researchers, firming up the conclusion that U.S. chemical engineering research in the area of thermodynamics is “Dominant, at the Forefront.” Relative Strengths and Weaknesses. Thermodynamics is a large and vibrant field in chemical engineering worldwide, and like many engineering fields that are closely linked to science, many significant contributions come from workers outside of chemical engineering departments. This is true in the United States, but is particularly evident in the European Union. Thus, it is difficult to benchmark only U.S. chemical engineers in this arena, and there are many substantial and important U.S. academic collaborations that involve chemical engineers together with chemists or physicists, all working on both experimental and theoretical problems. This interdisciplinary work is clearly a strength, and it allows new ideas to be readily applied to problems of interest to chemical engineering practitioners. The field has in general expanded over the time period represented in our analysis of publications, with growth by a factor of 2 in publications in Fluid Phase Equilibria and a factor of over 4 in Molecular Simulations. These journals primarily reflect, respectively, reports of experimental and simulation studies. The relative rates of growth indicate a substantially larger rate of new developments in simulations, which is of course to be expected given the availability of increasing computational power. The percentage of U.S. contributions in Fluid Phase Equilibria was 20% in 1997 and 15% in 2005, and in Molecular Simulations was 10% in 1997 and 25% in 2005. This further validates the impression that simulations are a more attractive area for research than are traditional experiments, but in all cases the absolute number of U.S. publications increased. Participants in the Virtual World Congress spanned a range of ages
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness with a healthy distribution of experience. There are certainly senior leaders, but also a good diversity of younger chemical engineers involved in this area, particularly on the computational and simulation side. The relative lack of experimental activity may be worrisome for the future prospects. From the publication analysis there appears to be no dramatic shift in the international distribution of articles with the United States and EU a substantial majority, but there is a noticeable increase of papers from China in Fluid Phase Equilibria. Future Prospects. Significant advances in molecular simulation for the estimation of thermodynamic properties have taken place during the past 10 years for complex systems such as polymers, surfactants, liquid crystals, subcooled water, biomacromolecules, and ionic liquids. Application of quantum mechanics for the calculation of intermolecular forces in phase equilibrium description of fluid mixtures, elucidation of the effects of pressure and solutes on the thermodynamics of hydrophobic hydration of large and small solutes, development of ionic liquids as solvents for separations, and thermodynamics of glasses and disordered systems are some of the other major advances in recent years. Thermodynamics will continue to be a critical area of chemical engineering for the foreseeable future, and a large and continually growing portion of the field will continue to exploit computer simulations to address practical problems. Other areas of growth will be the application of thermodynamics to biological and complex materials synthesis and processing problems. These will occur both in processing steps in industry, where for example thermodynamic studies can guide optimization of unit operations such as protein crystallization, and in increasingly sophisticated descriptions of the molecular interactions responsible for recognition events. As the theoretical tools in this field enable more accurate descriptions of molecular features, experiments will also probe finer scales. This is particularly true in applications of thermodynamics to descriptions of self-assembly processes involving surfactants, polymers and polyelectrolytes, and other nanoscale building blocks, which are becoming the core components for high added-value products in a variety of industries. The Panel expects that in the future the following items will continue to attract the research interest: multiscale modeling, which starts with atomic-level descriptions for the simulation of soft matter-colloid solutions, surfactants and micellar solutions, polymers, and self-assembly from these; thermodynamics of biological molecules, the hydrophobic effect, and protein folding; thermodynamics of solubility, bioavailability, and protein binding for drug discovery and development; thermodynamics of small systems needed for the simulation and design of nanostructures; nontraditional
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness The process control community in chemical engineering is part of the broader automatic control community, and we were interested to seek information on the position of chemical engineers, and of U.S. chemical engineers in particular, within that broader grouping. Popular journals for automatic control researchers are Automatica and IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control. An analysis of the chemical engineering contributions to those journals is shown in Table 4.42. The proportion of chemical engineering contributions to these generalist journals is clearly low, and there is little evidence of growth in the past 15 years. (Absolute numbers of contributions from chemical engineers have grown, but at a rate in line with overall growth in contributions from all disciplines.) A very striking feature of the chemical engineering contributions is the dominant position of U.S. authors. This is illustrated in Table 4.43 where percentages of contributions featuring chemical engineering authors from various geographical regions to Automatica are presented. In the area of optimization, most of the contributions by chemical engineers are published in the journal Computers and Chemical Engineering. The relative contributions by U.S. and non-U.S. authors follow similar trends as those discussed earlier for the journal at large. In the area of optimization, chemical engineers have been publishing in a variety of specialized journals, like the Journal of Optimization Theory and Applications, Mathematical Programming, INFORMS Journal on Computing, and others (see Table 4.44). The numbers of papers and TABLE 4.42 Percentages of Papers Featuring Chemical Engineering Authors Published in Automatica and IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control by Time Period 1990-1994 1995-1999 2000-2006 Automatica 3.3 4.1 3.4 IEEE Trans. Automatic Control 1.2 1.2 0.7 TABLE 4.43 Percentages of Papers in Automatica with Chemical Engineering Authors by Geographical Region (Papers with authors from more than one region have been counted for each region featured.) 1990-1994 1995-1999 2000-2006 United States 18.2 46.0 55.3 EU 45.5 13.5 19.2 Asia 18.2 18.9 25.5 Canada 18.2 29.7 17.0
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness TABLE 4.44 Chemical Engineering Contributions to the Optimization Literature (2000-2006 August) No. of Chem. Eng. Papers Total No. of Papers Mathematical Programming 5 579 J. Optimization Theory and Applications 4 834 J. Global Optimization 19 550 Annals of Operations Research 7 799 INFORMS J. on Computing 1 210 Optimization and Engineering 8 50 SIAM J. on Optimization 4 420 Computational Optimization and Applications 5 314 SIAM J. on Scientific Computing 11 739 corresponding percentages are small: About 1% to 3.5% were contributed almost exclusively by a small number of U.S. academic researchers, leading to very large per capita numbers of papers. The percent contributions are quite healthy, given the extensive interdisciplinarity of these journals, and the quality of the chemical engineering contributions is usually high, set by a very competitive interdisciplinary group of researchers. Relative Strengths and Weaknesses. As with process development and design, discussed in the previous paragraph, the U.S. chemical engineering community took an early lead in theoretical and applied process control and optimization activities in the mid 1960s. It was not until the mid to late 1970s that major breakthroughs in process control were introduced in the operation of large-scale chemical plants. The subsequent growth of industrially relevant and effective process control was rapid. The number of research groups around the country increased significantly, and the population of graduate students with education and skills in process dynamics and control expanded rapidly. During the 20-year period 1975-1995, process control research expanded to include control synthesis for complete chemical plants, integration of regulation and operational optimization, design of multivariable optimal regulators for fairly large systems, and fairly sophisticated diagnostic methodologies for the early detection of process faults, and promised to materialize the concept of an “operator-less” plant. In addition, advances in dynamic simulation opened the door to complex nonlinear control systems, and the expansion of optimization capabilities allowed the optimal planning, scheduling, and control of a large number of batch operations. It should be noted that chemical engineers have contributed substantially more than other engineering disciplines in advancing the
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness theory and industrial practice of interdisciplinary areas, such as nonlinearnonlinear programming, optimization with integer and continuous variables, and global optimization. All of these achievements are presently at risk. For the past 10 years we have witnessed the gradual reduction in the level of research activities in process control and optimization. Federal funding and industrial support for such research have been reduced. Academic researchers in process systems engineering have turned their attention to problems for which they can secure funding. While such reorientation is healthy in many respects, it has undermined the broad-impact breakthroughs that came with earlier research, and while it helps maintain certain low numbers of graduates skilled in process control and optimization, it has undermined the morale of U.S. researchers in this area. Ensuring that adequately trained human resources are available in sufficient numbers to ensure success in the new challenges, analogous to those described in the previous section on process development and design, is the most critical issue for this subarea. Future Prospects. The rapid growth in the number of model-predictive control (MPC) systems installed in chemical plants and their integration with operational optimization algorithms in real time are two of the significant developments during the past 10 years. In addition, very effective optimization algorithms for large-scale and nonlinear supply-chain problems have resulted in significant shifts of industrial practices. U.S. academic and industrial researchers and engineers have driven most of the theory and applications development of MPC in the chemical industry, and the principal contributions in large-scale optimization theory have come from the United States. The European Union is very strong in all the subject matters of this subarea, and Asian researchers have focused primarily on applications. Research towards the development of model-predictive control systems, which monitor, diagnose, and adapt their performance, and parametric programming for process control are well on their way for industrial implementation, but still need support for their successful completion. Industrial needs for commodity chemical plants require further development of online and large-scale dynamic process optimization algorithms with the ability to monitor, diagnose, and adapt their search and performance. Control of multiscale and distributed processes, and model-predictive control and operational optimization of nonlinear and hybrid processes will become more prominent in the future, especially for materials- and device-manufacturing processes with quality specifications at small scales and many discrete operations. Online process monitoring for product quality assessment will also attract more interest for such manufacturing systems.
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness Panel’s Summary Assessment. The current U.S. position is at the “Forefront,” and although in the future this position is expected to weaken, due to uncertainties in funding, the United States will remain “Among World Leaders.” 4.9.c Plant Operability and Safety This subarea involves research into the identification and mitigation of hazards associated with the operation of manufacturing facilities, as well as all practical engineering considerations associated with safe, smooth, flexible, resilient, and robust operability of such facilities. U.S. Position. For the Virtual World Congress 11 experts were consulted with 10, i.e., 91%, of them being from the United States. U.S.-based speakers represented 77% of nominations (137 out of a total of 179) when duplications were allowed. This number dropped to 69% (70 out of 102), when duplications were disallowed. These results indicate a clear leadership position in this subarea for the United States. Key journals in this area are published by national chemical engineering professional bodies: Process Safety Progress is published by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and Process Safety and Environmental Protection by the Institution of Chemical Engineers based in the United Kingdom. The proportions of U.S. papers published in these two journals reflect their geographical origins: in 2005, 77% of the papers published in Process Safety Progress featured U.S.-based authors; for Process Safety and Environmental Protection the corresponding figure was as low as 10%. It is difficult to argue that these results provide confirmatory evidence of U.S. leadership for this area. Indeed, the higher proportion of non-U.S. contributions in Process Safety Progress than of U.S. contributions in Process Safety and Environmental Protection might be argued to show relative weakness of U.S. research internationally in this area. Future Prospects. Large-scale data reconciliation, process monitoring and fault detection for continuous commodity plants, and advanced systematic methods for the identification of hazards and safety analysis have been the most significant advances in the past 10 years. Efforts along these lines for advanced methods will continue, as the implementation of new technologies requires shifts in operating procedures and management of operations. The Panel expects that the scope of traditional concerns on safety will expand to include the evolving and more stringent constraints on environmental impact. This is a fertile area of future research, since it leads to an integrated approach in process conceptualization, process design and process safety, and operability and control. Computer-aided systems for integrated
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness hazards-safety-risk assessments will also become necessary, and the need will increase for new sensor designs, data visualization, and image processing and analysis. Panel’s Summary Assessment: The current U.S. position is “Among World Leaders,” and in the future is expected to remain “Among World Leaders.” 4.9.d Computational Tools and Information Technology Mathematical and computational modeling is an underpinning technology supporting research in many areas of chemical engineering. This subarea includes research in methods and tools for the modeling and simulation of process systems. Dynamic simulation of nonlinear systems (hybrid or not), dynamic pattern formation, modeling and analysis of multiscale systems, complexity theory and modeling/analysis of complex systems, as well as knowledge extraction from operating data, large-scale information processing for enhanced performance, security, and environmental impact, knowledge management and organizational learning, and aspects of an emerging cyber infrastructure, are a few of the issues attracting current research interests. The computational challenges associated with resolving the complex mathematical and computational problems that arise are often significant. As a result, chemical engineering researchers are making important contributions to the fundamentals of computation, through the development of concepts, methods and algorithms to handle complex process systems problems. Other important areas of computing, such as decision support and the organization, retrieval, and interpretation of large complex datasets, are also included in this subarea. U.S. Position. The number of experts for the Virtual World Congress in this subarea was seven, with five (71%) from the United States. Of the speakers, 63% nominations were for U.S.-based researchers. These results indicate that the United States holds a leadership position in this subarea. Computers and Chemical Engineering is a popular journal in which to publish contributions on the topics of this subarea. Analysis of the papers indicated that the general trend observed for the journal at large (see above) hold true for the contributions in this subarea. Chemical engineering researchers contribute little to interdisciplinary journals in this subarea, such as SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing (1.4%), International Journal on Numerical Methods in Engineering (0.7%), International Journal on Bifurcation and Chaos (0.4%), and others with smaller fractional contributions.
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness Relative Strengths and Weaknesses. Advanced methods and computer-aided tools for modeling, analysis, and simulation of processing systems and sophisticated information management systems form the underpinnings of all process systems engineering activities and have a critical effect on the deployment of all systems engineering tasks, such as product and process development and design, process control, supply-chain management and optimal planning and scheduling of process operations, and process monitoring and fault detection. These technologies along with the infrastructures that allow the coordinated aggregation and interaction of software, hardware, and human researchers and engineers, have a critical effect on the creativity and productivity of the chemical industry and have led chemical operations to unprecedented levels of operational efficiency. Over the last 45 years, a large and vibrant community of U.S. (and United Kingdom) academic researchers and industrial practitioners established this subarea as a pole of significant attraction for talented young people. The results of their work fueled the generation of a series of commercial products with global reach, which have substantially increased the effectiveness and productivity of chemical engineers. The highly sophisticated process design and engineering allowed U.S. chemical companies to lead the competition in process licensing around the world. However, today the systems engineering infrastructure (human and technological) of the U.S. chemical industry is at risk of losing its preeminence and competitive advantage. The number of active researchers in this subarea has decreased significantly during the past 10 years. The primary reason for this decrease has been a significant reduction in available funding for research in this subarea. The corresponding number of research groups and graduating PhD students is very low as well. Research in the design and deployment of a modern “cyber infrastructure” is not taking place, threatening a deterioration in the productivity and competitiveness of new chemical processes (independently of the geographic location) and the creativity and effectiveness of the industrial research enterprise in health-care products (pharmaceuticals, diagnostic products), fine chemicals, functional materials, biomass-based fuels, and new energy devices. Future Prospects. The establishment of the CAPE-OPEN standards and the opening of the path for the design of plug-and-play software in process systems engineering is one of the most interesting developments during the past 10 years. In addition, effective algorithmic approaches have been developed for modeling, simulation, and optimization of continuous, discrete-event, hybrid, and multiscale dynamic processes. Simulation, design, and optimization under uncertainty, very effective global optimization algorithms, and the expanding use of Monte Carlo simulators, along with the advances mentioned above, have enhanced the abilities of chemical engineering
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness researchers in many subareas by offering the tools they need for materials and peptides design, metabolic engineering, green engineering, combustion, kinetics and reaction engineering, and others. The single most important development for the future may be the systematic design, deployment, and utilization of large-scale cyber infrastructures. Such systems, which will provide transparent integration of algorithmic procedures, databases, experimental equipment, and human researchers, may have far-reaching effects on the creativity and efficiency of chemical engineering research in all subareas. A subset of the possibilities includes biocatalysis and protein engineering; cellular and metabolic engineering; engineering of green products and processes; design of new materials; design and simulation of self-assembled systems; integrated product and process design; and integration of chemical production routes with process conceptualization and design, process safety, operability, and control. The Panel believes that the need for decision-making, computer-aided tools that support efforts in the area of sustainability (e.g., dealing with uncertainty, multiple objectives, and complexity) will become more prominent in the future. The pressure for continuous improvements in the following areas of computational tools and information systems will remain strong: global optimization; multiscale and multi-agent process systems engineering; problem-specific mixed-integer optimization approaches; complexity and engineering design; and tools for visualization of data and operations. Panel’s Summary Assessment. The current U.S. position is “Among the Leaders,” and in the future is expected to remain “Among World Leaders.” 4.10 SUMMARY Based on the analysis of data regarding the composition of the Virtual World Congress, publications and citations, patents, recognition of individual researchers through prizes and awards, and prevailing trends, the Panel compiled an overall assessment for each subarea in terms of the following two indices: Current Position of U.S. Research in Chemical Engineering Expected Future Position of U.S. Research in Chemical Engineering Table 4.45 summarizes the Panel’s assessment of the Current and Expected Future Positions of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research in all
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness TABLE 4.45 Assessment of Current and Future Positions for U.S. Chemical Engineering Research (X = current position; grey circle = future position)
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness subareas alongside the expected future trends. The major conclusions are as follows: Conclusion 1: U.S. chemical engineering research is strong and at the “Forefront” or “Among World Leaders” in all subareas of chemical engineering. It is expected to remain so in the future. Conclusion 2: U.S. research is particularly strong in fundamental engineering science across the spectrum of scales: from macroscopic to molecular. In these areas of research, the primary competition in terms of quality and impact comes from other disciplines rather than from chemical engineers from other countries. However, recent trends of increasing levels of applications-oriented research with a parallel decrease in the levels of basic research will continue and may undermine the historical strength and preeminence of U.S. chemical engineering. Conclusion 3: In the core areas of chemical engineering research, the level of output from Asian and European Union countries has increased significantly during the past 10 years, but the United States maintains a strong leadership position in terms of quality and impact. Conclusion 4: In the following subareas of chemical engineering research, the United States will be “Gaining or Extending” its current relative position: biocatalysis and protein engineering; cellular and metabolic engineering; systems, computational, and synthetic biology; nanostructured materials; fossil energy extraction and processing; non-fossil energy; and green engineering. Conclusion 5: The Panel has recognized that funding policies (government and industrial) may put at risk the U.S. position in the following subareas of chemical engineering research: transport processes; separations; catalysis; kinetics and reaction engineering; electrochemical processes; bioprocess engineering; molecular and interfacial science and engineering; inorganic and ceramic materials; composites; fossil fuel utilization; process development and design, and dynamics, control, and operational optimization. Conclusion 6: The degree of interdisciplinarity varies from subarea to subarea but is significant in all areas of chemical engineering research and in recent years has been growing. Therefore, the future competitiveness of U.S. chemical engineering research must be benchmarked against a broader spectrum of disciplinary contributions.
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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness Conclusion 7: Trends in research funding policies will continue to reduce chemical engineering’s dynamic range, strengthening its molecular orientation in bio- and materials-related activities at the expense of research in macroscopic processes.
Representative terms from entire chapter: