392086 A Process Systems Engineering Perspective on Health and Disease
With our increasing understanding of life’s multi-scale complexity, we suggest that living systems share characteristics common to engineering, and chemical engineering in particular. A chemical plant can be perceived as a complex network of interacting sub-systems, with their dynamics constrained to tight requirements of robustness (to maintain safe operation) on one hand, while maintaining a certain degree of flexibility to accommodate changeover on the other. In a manner similar to the nested hierarchy of physiological systems (cell ó organ ó organism), physico-chemical processes in a chemical plant take place at the at the molecular level within the confines of a process unit, which is part of an integrated plant, which in turn is a component of a world-wide supply chain. The aim of analysis, synthesis, and design of complex supply chains is to identify the laws governing optimally integrated systems. Optimality of operations is not a uniquely defined property. Optimality usually expresses the decision maker’s balance between alternative, often conflicting, objectives. Both living and engineered complex constructs have evolved through multiple iterations, the former by natural processes and the latter by design, to optimize survival in a dynamically changing environment by maintaining systemic responses within acceptable ranges. A deviation from these limits leads to possibly irreversible damage. Stability and resiliency of these constructs is the result of dynamic interactions among constitutive elements.
Accordingly, in this presentation we attempt to draw analogies between fundamental concepts pervasive in chemical engineering theory and practice and conceptual/theoretical models of health and disease. We opt to establish connections between these concepts in the context of the analysis, synthesis, design, control and operation of complex chemical plants (and supply chains) and how these concepts mirror themselves onto critical aspects of notional physiological counterparts of engineered systems.
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