(63b) Towards Engineering Sustainability: A Multiscale Complex Systems Approach | AIChE

(63b) Towards Engineering Sustainability: A Multiscale Complex Systems Approach


Huang, Y. - Presenter, Wayne State University

The quest for sustainability reflects a crucial paradigm shift in the 21st century, i.e., the transition from environmental management, to a holistic, multidimensional system design of various scales, coming up with solutions for reducing radical resource use, while improving the health, equity, and quality of life for all stakeholders. However, sustainability is an extremely complex area of research and practice in terms of scope, contents, and spatial/temporal aspects. Sustainable development needs not only evaluation of the status quo, but also prediction and strategic decision-making for the future, all under the situation of information uncertainty and insufficient knowledge. Thus, how to characterize, analyze, design, and restructure systems, from the material-product-process scale to the complex industrial system scale, in the context of sustainability, is a new research frontier in engineering that needs much exploration. In this presentation, the challenges and research frontiers in engineering sustainability research will be discussed first. Then, a Multiscale Design for Sustainability methodology will be introduced, which is developed by resorting to basic sustainability science, multiscale complex systems theory, uncertainty theory, and control theory. The methodology is capable of performing hierarchical system modeling, comprehensive sustainability analysis, and multiscale decision making under uncertainty. The methodological efficacy will be demonstrated by applied studies, ranging from sustainable design of nanomaterials, to profitable pollution prevention in surface coating systems, and to industrial-zone-based technology network sustainability. Finally, future research opportunities for chemical engineers, through multidisciplinary collaboration, will be discussed.