An optimal control methodology is applied to the goal of lowering polydispersity while increasing conversion in polymerization reactions. An illustration using initiator, heat, and monomer flux control profiles for free-radical polymerization of styrene in a plug flow reactor is provided and compared with available experimental data. The design calculations use a kinetic model that includes the gel effect. The reactor designs show that distributed initiator, heat, and monomer fluxes along the length of the reactor lower the polydispersity of the styrene polymers and increase conversion for a given reaction time. The monomer flux maintains a nearly constant monomer concentration in the reactor. The initiator and heat fluxes are highly correlated. The temperature rises as a result the heat flux; but the initiator flux results in a lower initiator concentration relative to the initiator cofeed case. At a reaction time of 120 min, a conversion of 44% and a polydispersity of 1.73 have been achieved. The theoretical designs, although not proven to be globally optimal, are of high quality.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films
- Polymers and Plastics
- Materials Chemistry