University of Birmingham Enterprise announces the launch of EvoPhase, which delivers services to optimise existing and new process equipment that mixes, blends, stores, or stirs granular materials.
EvoPhase will use evolutionary AI algorithms, coupled with simulations of particulates in systems such as industrial mixers, to evolve an optimised design for the mixing blade, and the shape or size of the blending vessel.
This AI-led ‘evolutionary design’ approach is applicable to a diverse range of process equipment, including mills, dryers, roasters, coaters, fluidised beds, stirred tanks and is expected to produce huge cost and energy savings for industry.
EvoPhase has been set up using a unique model of commercialisation known as an Operating Division, which allows industry rapid access to flexible, cutting-edge services from Birmingham’s academic innovators.
Have you ever wondered about the efficiency of mixing processes? Take a ribbon mixer – it looks like a standard piece of equipment, but without proper design, the mixing is less than ideal.
This video demonstrates a simulation of a ribbon mixer with 30 million particles. Starting with a quarter of them distinctly coloured in orange and tucked away in one corner, we expected them to blend smoothly throughout the system’s three alternating stages. Yet the simulation reveals a different story.
Founders Chief Executive Officer Dominik Werner, Chief Technology Officer, Leonard Nicusan, Chief Operating Officer, Jack Sykes, and Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Kit Windows-Yule, are from Birmingham’s School of Chemical Engineering. All four are highly experienced in digital models and simulations of industrial processes, and their combined expertise will enable EvoPhase to address challenges that traditional R&D methods struggle to resolve.
CEO Dominik Werner said: “Up to 50% of the world’s products are created by processes that use granular materials, but granules are difficult to characterise or understand. If you consider coffee, its granules are solid when they are contained, like a liquid-like when poured out of the container, and become gas-like and dispersed if you blow on them. This type of variability means granules are the most complex form of matter to process.”
The team will use a novel AI technology called Highly-Autonomous Rapid Prototyping for Particulate Processes (HARPPP), which works like natural selection, testing out designs it has evolved to come up with to find the best one. It allows the user to set multiple parameters for optimisation, allowing evolution of a design that will meet, for instance, targets on power draw, throughput and mixing rate, rather than trading these parameters off against each other.
EvoPhase will also use a numerical method called DEM (Discrete Element Method) which predicts the behaviours of granular materials by computing the movement of all particles. These computations can be validated using Positron Emission Particle Tracking (PEPT), another technique invented at Birmingham, which is a variant of the medical imaging technique positron emission tomography (PET).
Leonard Nicusan said: “Our technologies enable us to undertake assignments in material characterisation, digital model development, experimental imaging and validation, optimisation of process conditions, geometric design optimisation and scale-up, and predictive model development. Our approach is suitable for designing powder, granule and fluid processing equipment across all industries, where it will deliver cost savings by increasing energy efficiency, mixing effectiveness and throughput.”
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