RAY, Ajay K

Professor and Chair
Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

BSc (Chem. & Chem. Eng.) Calcutta
M. Tech (Chem. Eng.) IIT Kanpur
PhD (Chem. Eng.) Minnesota
Web site: http://www.eng.uwo.ca/people/aray

My research revolves around the problems of the mathematical modeling of various complicated systems of engineering interest and analysis of the interactions between the transport processes and chemical reactions. My research thrust is to discover novel approaches to improve process performance, development of new and innovative process design, optimal operation of such process systems and its application to relevant problems in the chemical industries. The design, development, simulation, optimization and analysis of chemical reactors provide an ideal habitat to explore such problems. Majority of my research projects exhibit a good blend of fundamental theory and practice in terms of developing theoretical and computational tools addressing design and operations issues of complex systems. Research approaches include analytical, experimental and numerical techniques.

The objective of my research is to gain a fundamental understanding of the complex behavior of these nonlinear systems and use this understanding to practical advantage. My research has made significant contributions to three areas of chemical engineering: (a) catalytic reaction engineering and reactor design, (b) chemical and biochemical process development, and (c) process modeling, simulation and optimization. Novel chemical processes are the key in finding new ways to produce useful products and energy sources, with improved efficiency, reactor simplicity, and lower costs. Several projects in my laboratory are associated with the chemically reacting systems, such as simulated moving bed chromatographic reactors, photocatalytic reactors, oscillatory reactors, and polymer reactors. My indulgence in research is to pursue practical chemical engineering issues in order to leave behind positive changes for society and industry.

Photo-stimulated catalysis offers an attractive tool for applications in producing clean fuel and in degrading toxic pollutants for environmental cleanup. However, a specific problem associated with commonly used photo-catalysts is the large band-gap energy, which requires artificial light. Success of this technology depends on engineering of electronic bands of the catalyst for paradigm-shift to solar-based photocatalysis that could produce large economic and social benefits. Successful synthesis of chemically modified photocatalyst through band engineering enables use of sunlight for splitting water into clean hydrogen fuel, sun-powered remediation of environmental pollutants, and creation of solar-driven self-cleaning and antifogging building materials. Another research thrust aims at developing a technical solution to the design of large-scale photocatalytic reactors that provide large activated catalyst surface area, uniform distribution of light and efficient mixing inside the reactors.

Simulated Moving Bed (SMB) systems are used for separations that are either impossible or difficult using traditional separation techniques. SMB systems can also be integrated to include reactions, which can provide economic benefit for equilibrium limited reversible reactions. In-situ separation of the products facilitates the reversible reaction to completion beyond thermodynamic equilibrium and at the same time obtaining products of high purity. Unique aspect of our research is to apply the concept of multiobjective optimization in innovative design of SMB systems for chiral drug separation, production of High Fructose Syrup by inversion of sucrose and isomerization of glucose, separation of xylene isomers, synthesis of ethers and esters, production of biodiesel, etc.  At present, we are also working on a reliable, efficient and economic process for purification of chiral drugs based on hybrid simulated moving bed (SMB) and crystallization process. In the approach, a SMB is used first for enantiomer enrichment beyond the eutectic composition followed by direct crystallization to recover pure single enantiomer.

Our research group is pioneer to apply the concept of multiobjective optimization in the design and operation of chemical reactors and processes. Multi-objective optimizations of industrial reactors are carried out to identify the optimal conditions for producing valuable products economically using different adaptations of genetic algorithm, which usually result in an optimal Pareto set. These studies help optimize several objectives while simultaneously satisfying several real-life constraints present in industry. Significant cost savings and enhanced productivity are achieved.  Industrial processes studied are hydrogen production by steam reforming of hydrocarbons; polymerization reactors for the production of Nylons, Polyesters, Perspex, polyethylene, polystyrene; beer dialysis using hollow fiber membranes; styrene manufacturing process; ethylene plant; industrial hydrocracking process; ethylene oxide; oxidative coupling of methane in catalytic membrane reactors; circulating fluidized bed reactor and Penicillin bioreactor.

KEYWORDS: Reaction Engineering, Photocatalysis, Simulated Moving Bed Systems, Mathematical Modeling, Simulation and Multi-objective Optimization, Process Systems and Engineering, Integrated Reactor-Separator, Chemical Process Development.

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Contact Info

Western Engineering

Thompson Engineering Building,
Room number 463
Telephone: 519-661-2111 Ext. 81279
Fax: 519-661-3498
E-mail: aray@eng.uwo.ca