476316 Targeted Improvement of Biochemical Processes Via Process Systems Engineering Strategies

Sunday, November 13, 2016
Continental 4 & 5 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Jonathan P. Raftery, Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

Research Interests:  

Much of current research is driven toward finding alternative strategies to producing commercial products traditionally made from fossil fuels in an effort to develop a sustainable future. While recent studies have shown the promise of biochemical platforms for the production of fuels as well as commodity and specialty chemicals, such as plastics and pharmaceuticals, multiple challenges exist in the development of commercial-scale processes utilizing these biochemical production pathways. Upstream bioprocessing exhibits the variable and complex nature of biochemical reactions that make the application of traditional chemical engineering practices for continuous operation and reactor scale-up difficult. In addition, many of these technologies are in their infancy and lack the productivity to compete economically with traditional petroleum based processes. However, the focus in biotechnology has been more on improvement through the development of novel recombinant strains than on the development of novel commercial processing strategies that could provide answers to these challenges. Process systems engineering practices have been employed for commodity chemical processes to achieve their optimal performance with respect to economic and environmental objectives, and the application of a systems approach to bio-systems can provide solutions to their commercial implementation over traditional petroleum-based processing methods.

To this end, my research plan is to focus on the implementation a systems approach to develop novel processes in key areas of biochemical manufacturing, specifically sustainable energy, bio-plastics, and pharmaceuticals. My doctoral work at Texas A&M University, under the guidance of Dr. M. Nazmul Karim, has provided me with extensive experience developing novel biochemical processes for the production of fuels and chemicals. I will look to extend this knowledge to my group in an effort to afford students a multi-disciplinary environment capable of providing opportunities to develop both experimental and computational skills in the areas biochemical engineering and traditional chemical engineering. My research will facilitate the bench to commercial scale development of new bioprocesses to increase their reliability and economic viability. Work in renewable liquid transportation fuels will providing a sustainable platform to decrease harmful greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on non-renewable liquid fuel sources. The development of new methods for the production of novel bio-plastics from lignocellulose and then further commercialization to large scale will be explored to provide renewable sources of plastics to consumers. In addition, my group will investigate novel production schemes for the fed-batch and continuous biological production of pharmaceuticals in an effort to utilize the cost-reducing practices of the commodity chemicals industry while guarding against risks such as contamination and product variability. The interdisciplinary nature of the group will also necessitate strong collaborations that will further enrich this training environment.

Teaching Interests:

I am comfortable teaching most general subjects within the chemical engineering curriculum for both undergraduate and graduate students. However, I would prefer to teach process economics, process design, process control, or process analysis courses based on my experience teaching these subjects as a Graduate Teaching Fellow of Texas A&M University.

Based on my own academic background and my experience in the Texas A&M chemical engineering department, I would like to design two new courses that can be offered to either the graduate students or senior undergraduate students: a process synthesis and optimization course and an biochemical processing course.

The first course would cover the various aspects of process synthesis, such as the fundamentals of nonlinear and mixed-integer optimization, the modeling paradigm consistent with the construction of process superstructures, and the use of process integration and intensification strategies to improve upon superstructures. In recent years, process systems engineering has become a special focus in many universities, therefore this topic will be a main focus of this course.

The second course would cover the basics of biochemical processing, both upstream and downstream, and serves to teach essential topics to developing alternative green processes. This course would cover the fundamentals of biochemical reactions (kinetic modeling and bioreactor design), bio-separations (chromatography, membrane extraction, liquid-liquid extraction, etc.), and their applications and challenges in the design of large scale bio-systems.

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