Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Process systems engineering and sustainable development

January 1, 2022 - December 31, 2027
Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
2.02.00  Engineering sciences and technologies  Chemical engineering   
1.07.00  Natural sciences and mathematics  Computer intensive methods and applications   

Code Science Field
2.04  Engineering and Technology  Chemical engineering  
1.01  Natural Sciences  Mathematics 
Process Systems Engineering, Sustainable Development, Circular Economy, Process Synthesis, Integration, Chemical Supply Chain, Renewable resource, Energy Reduction, Emission Reduction, Optimization, Catalysis, Environmental Analytics, Sustainability Metrics, Circularity Metrics, Water Usage, MINLP
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Data for the last 5 years (citations for the last 10 years) on June 20, 2024; A3 for period 2018-2022
Data for ARIS tenders ( 04.04.2019 – Programme tender, archive )
Database Linked records Citations Pure citations Average pure citations
WoS  587  12,629  11,392  19.41 
Scopus  726  16,170  14,519  20 
Researchers (25)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  31320  PhD Nataša Belšak Šel  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2022 
2.  26217  PhD Miloš Bogataj  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
3.  11243  PhD Štefan Čelan  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
4.  01347  PhD Peter Glavič  Chemical engineering  Retired researcher  2022 - 2024 
5.  00853  PhD Janvit Golob  Chemical engineering  Retired researcher  2022 - 2024 
6.  06008  PhD Andreja Goršek  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
7.  52023  PhD Tina Kegl  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
8.  14980  PhD Dušan Klinar  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
9.  10878  PhD Anita Kovač-Kralj  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
10.  06005  PhD Zdravko Kravanja  Chemical engineering  Head  2022 - 2024 
11.  54894  David Majer  Chemistry  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
12.  57171  Erik Mihelič  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2023 
13.  36603  PhD Andreja Nemet  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
14.  11369  PhD Zorka Novak Pintarič  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
15.  12681  PhD Bojan Pahor  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
16.  19271  PhD Darja Pečar  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
17.  52327  PhD Sanja Potrč  Chemical engineering  Junior researcher  2022 - 2024 
18.  20089  PhD Klavdija Rižnar  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
19.  12659  PhD Marjana Simonič  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
20.  11810  MSc Bojan Slemnik  Computer science and informatics  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
21.  17867  PhD Aleksander Soršak  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
22.  15799  PhD Lidija Tušek  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
23.  55617  Aleksandra Verdnik  Chemical engineering  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023 
24.  33679  PhD Annamaria Vujanović  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2023 - 2024 
25.  37498  PhD Žan Zore  Engineering sciences and technologies  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
Organisations (2)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0794  University of Maribor, Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering  Maribor  5089638012  80 
2.  1421  Scientific research Centre Bistra Ptuj  Ptuj  5844975000 
The main motivation and objective of the research program 'Process Systems Engineering and Sustainable Development' is to reverse current unsustainable trends, especially the progressive depletion of resources and continuance or even increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The ultimate goal is to develop and implement a Grand Design holistic approach to effect the transition from current linear production/utilization systems to new circular value chains by utilizing waste and reducing emissions. The Circular Economy (CE) concept would be integrated across the chemical supply chain. The proposed research topics would address the whole chemical supply chain, from renewable raw materials, molecular transformations, green technologies and processes to the distribution of advanced products at local, regional and continental levels. Five research topics, complying with the EU Smart Specializations S3 and the Slovenian S4 roadmap, are proposed: 1. Primary and secondary renewable resources, clean and efficient energy and water usage. 2. Molecular transformations: Synthesis of new reaction routes for bio- and pharmaceutical applications, advanced environmental analytics. 3. Development of concepts and measurements for CE-based sustainable systems synthesis. 4. Development of computer-aided methods and tools for CE-based sustainable systems synthesis. 5. S3 applications, knowledge and technology transfer. The first section would address the capture of the raw-material-energy-water nexus, including the development of advanced technologies for the conversion of secondary and bioresources, to prevent unsustainable use of resources and reduce emissions. At the molecular transformation level, the plan would be to discover catalysts for new bio- and pharmaceutical reaction paths, to perform integrated laboratory-computer optimization and synthesis of microprocess systems, and develop a new generation of more sensitive analytical methods for better tracing of contaminants. The third section would tackle multi-objective temporal and spatial integration of resources within company supply networks, based on the ongoing development of circularity and sustainability measurements. The fourth section would deal with the development of a synthesis methodology for efficient renewable supply/demand networks. A computerized synthesizer shell MIPSYN-Global would be developed. Finally, the resulting knowledge and tools would be applied to several S3 applications. Generic CE business models for optimizing industrial Total Sites and sustainable food production are expected to be developed and the development of functional materials and several applications of the MIPSYN-Global shell are planned. The program is proposed as a six-year continuation from the merging of P2-0346 (1.18 FTE) with P2-0032 (1.50 FTE) into a new research program. In the last five years, the research teams have published around 230 scientific papers and carried out several EU and industrial projects.
Significance for science
The main contribution of the proposed programme is the integration of discovery and value growth in the chemical and process industries with the proposed Grand Design holistic approach. This is a very challenging approach as it requires the combination of established and newly developed Circular Process System Engineering methods and tools with the principles of sustainability complemented by circular economy concepts. As such, it represents a global novelty and a potential for scientific breakthroughs needed for the shift towards a sustainable and circular society. Process and product design is considered holistically across temporal and spatial levels of the (bio)chemical supply chain, i.e. from chemical transformation through processes and products to industrial Total Sites and regional supply networks. The concept of resource-efficient (material, energy and water) Total Sites is extended to the local and regional level and applied to entities outside chemical engineering such as communities, municipalities, cities, food supply chain. Simultaneous mass and energy region-wide integration establishes a measure for circularity and leads to new knowledge that involves technology advancement by shifting the technology paradigm from pollutant removal by destruction to pollutant removal by recovery. For example, one proposed method of water treatment is the recovery of compounds such as metals, nitrogen, and phosphorus from wastewater. New technologies for processing waste materials into products with desired properties increase the material use of waste against energy recovery, the residues of which are further processed into usable products. In the field of (bio)molecular transformation, the focus is on generating scientific and technological know-how for the synthesis of new reaction pathways that enable the production of green and carbon-neutral chemicals, the intensification of production processes through the use of on-chip technologies and environmental analytics. Design and development of advanced technologies and methods for heterogeneous catalysis, characterization of catalysts by surface analysis, fast and accurate determination of enzyme activity, etc., aim at a better understanding of reaction mechanisms and the potential discovery of novel, highly efficient (bio)catalysts. Non-conventional areas of analytical chemistry, with a focus on electrochemistry, sensors, corrosion and surface analysis, are the subject of intensive research. The focus is on supporting the development of sustainable technologies, expanding existing knowledge and developing more sensitive yet cost-effective and faster analytical methods. Development in this research area can be seen as a means of optimising process efficiency and solving societal challenges. An integrated optimization methodology increases economic prosperity and competitiveness of industries. It is expected to increase the linkage between research and innovation, increase the added value of products and production, and decrease the environmental impact. With regard to the development of new system methods and tools, it is expected that new advanced optimization methods and computational tools will be able to handle very complex synthesis problems with an enormous number of possible alternatives. The current methods of Sustainability Profit and Sustainability Net Present Value are extended to circular sustainability methods to favor the achievement of sustainable solutions with closed material and energy loops. The proposed methods are applied and adapted for simultaneous multi-objective optimization and synthesis of large-scale problems, possibly considering controllability, reliability, flexibility and safety. As computerized tools and methods become more comprehensive and accurate, the overall understanding of highly interconnected production systems and supply networks becomes more defined and reliable, and the solutions obtained quantitatively demonstrate the potential for improvement. The discovery of new or improved robust formulations, global optimization and parallelized multistart algorithms, synthesis and flexibility methods and strategies is expected, based on a multi level, mixed-integer programming approach implemented within the developed computer package MIPSYNGlobal. The computer environment in combination with laboratory microprocessors will lead to new concepts resulting in optimal chemical reactions and production of chemicals on a chip (flow chemistry, microreactors). The research team of the proposed programme conducts continuous dissemination of knowledge and results by publishing a significant number of articles in high quality scientific journals and presenting them at scientific conferences, seminars, workshops and other professional events.
Significance for the country
Innovative and holistic approaches of Circular Process Systems Engineering are the central objectives of planned research. They have a great potential in encouraging companies towards sustainable development and circular economy. The results of such a holistic approach would be optimal process solutions that foster reuse, recycling and zero waste. They are applicable to sustainable increase of efficiency and competitiveness of companies while promoting technological solutions for more efficient circular use of raw materials, water and energy. Novel 'green' reaction paths and analytical methods for monitoring trace concentrations are attractive for the development of new functional materials, such as catalysts for organic syntheses in bio- and pharmaceutical industries, environmental protection sensors, secondary raw materials and fuels from waste. Computer algorithms for syntheses of supply networks facilitate companies by developing circular business models and by stimulating new value chains. The latter integrates suppliers of wastes with their collectors and processors, as well as users of secondary raw materials with products derived from wastes. Incorporating safety, risk and uncertainty into the decision-making process enables safe and flexible process operation which is of paramount importance for companies. Newly developed sustainability and circularity indicators give companies a metric to track their progress from a linear to a circular economy. The intensification of production on a micro-process scale enables safer and more efficient production of bio-based products that replace products of fossil origin. Innovative solutions are expected that add value growth and are more economically efficient, environmentally friendly and socially equitable. Promotion of multi-objective optimization thus encourages managers and holders of capital that, in addition to economic benefits, they consider also environmental and social impacts during decision-making. The knowledge generated enables technologies to move from the concept stage (TRL 1-3) to pilot applications (TRL 4-6), which are prerequisites for industrial implementation. This is important for applications in areas S3 and S4, such as circular economy, smart cities and sustainable food production. These activities can make an important contribution to the socio-economic development of Slovenia and the EU. It is worth highlighting the interdisciplinarity of the programme group and its unique capability to execute research and development projects for industry in an integrated manner, i.e. from laboratory research supported by advanced analytics, through pilot scale and preliminary process design at industrial scale, to multi-objective optimization of supply networks while respecting economic, environmental and social impacts. Innovative approaches of Circular Process Systems Engineering would be applied also to those activities that affect people's quality of life. The developed procedures for reduction of water and air pollution have positive health effects. New analytical methods for measuring trace concentrations of pollutants (with detection limits lower by several orders than current limits) contribute to better water and air quality control while being cheaper and faster. The sustainable optimization of processes and supply networks from a circular economy point of view contributes to waste reduction and promotes the unburdening effects of industry on the environment. The improvement and development of new technologies for waste treatment and recycling relieves the environment in terms of the use of non-renewable raw materials, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, etc. This shows the potential of the planned research results to improve people's health and quality of life. The Slovenian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food has supported this research. The approaches of Circular Process Systems Engineering are applied to the optimization of food supply network including production of green products and energy from agricultural wastes. This could contribute to an increased food and energy self-sufficiency of society and, hence, to food supply security. Collaboration of the programme members in the development of human resources in circular economy is also important. Based on the developed knowledge, competencies of employees at all professional levels that are needed for a broader implementation of circular economy in the Slovenian society are created. In this way, the group contributes to the development of qualified human resources which are increasingly lacking in industry. The group members of the programme group contribute to the promotion of the Republic of Slovenia in its transition toward circular economy by publishing their achievements in top international journals, presenting them at conferences, and by participating in international projects and associations. Through organizing international conferences, the members contribute to global dissemination of sustainable Process Systems Engineering facilitating the transition to circular economy. The knowledge acquired is transferred to the courses in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry study programmes.
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