Section: Application Domains
Design of wastewater treatment plants
The question of the optimal designof chemical or biochemical systems has been addressed by several authors during the last thirty years. An important effort has been made by the chemical engineering community to synthesize plants with the smallest possible volume in order to minimize the investment cost. This task turns out to be much more complex in the case of biological systems. One reason for that is the difficulty of finding simple and yet accurate models to represent all the important dynamics of living organisms interacting in a bio-system.
A plant that is made of a cascade of homogeneous Continuous Stirred Tank Reactors (CSTR or chemostats) has a particular practical interest: in most cases, it allows to approximate the behavior of diffusive systems (also called Plug Flow Reactors or PFR) which usually exhibit better performances than a single CSTR. In other terms, a given conversion rate can be obtained with a PFR of smaller volume than the one of a CSTR. However, a PFR is very difficult to operate in practice while CSTR operability and reliability are better.
Biological processes can usually be classified into two classes of systems: micro-biological and enzymatic reactions. In simple terms, micro-biological-based reactions define (bio)reactions where a substrate degradation is associated with the growth of certain organisms while the second, the enzymatic reaction, may be viewed as a chemical reaction with specific kinetic functions.
Given a model of a series of CSTRs, representing either enzyme or micro-biological reactions, and a flow rate to be treated, the problem of determining optimal conditions for a steady-state operation has been studied. In particular, conditions have been proposed to minimize the Total Retention Time (TRT) required to attain a given conversion rate 1- SN/ S0 (here S0 and SN denote respectively the input and output substrate concentrations), or equivalently to minimize the total volume of the plant given that the flow rate to be treated is constant.