A digital twin - what at first sounds like something out of a science fiction movie is actually used to simulate production processes and thereby optimize them. The start-up DyssolTEC at the Technical University of Hamburg has taken up this technology and developed software to improve solid processes in the chemical industry. This enables manufacturers of solid products such as milk powder or instant coffee to find out where they can save resources and improve product quality without having to intervene in ongoing production.
Focus on solids
The software is based on the principle of a digital twin. This is used to map the process step by step in software, by means of a so-called flow sheet simulation. This software can be used, for example, to simulate what effects a change in temperature would have on the end product. This is more time- and resource-saving than intervening directly in the running process. DyssolTEC specializes in processes involving solids such as milk powder, instant coffee or fertilizers. "60 to 70 percent of chemical production processes run with solids. Despite this, there have been predominantly simulation programs that deal with liquid-gas processes," says the process engineer from TU Hamburg.
Like a growing library
The start-up has already integrated 15 process models from solids process engineering into the program, with more models to follow. Rothberg describes the software as a model library that ends up functioning like a modular system. In addition to the general focus on solids, the approach of multidimensional product properties is special. That's because solids have a lot of different properties, such as particle size or even composition. "It is important to be able to look at all these properties in the simulation, because they are also often interdependent and influence each other," says the TU scientist. This is exactly what the software makes possible - with success. The founders have already started cooperations with the two large chemical companies BASF and Evonik Industries AG. Other industrial partners are already in talks with the start-up.
Open source remains the method of choice
The founders met while working at the Institute of Solids Process Engineering and Particle Technology at the Technical University of Hamburg. Vasyl Skorych began developing the software nine years ago as part of a DFG research project before bringing Christian Eichler and Sophia Rothberg on board. Professor Stefan Heinrich, director of the SPE, is also a co-founder. He supports the young scientists with his experience in solids process engineering and industrial applications. In order to convince further interested parties, the software is currently available online as open source. "The basic program is to remain free of charge as a test version. In this way, we are also driving further research in this field and sharing our findings with other scientists," says Rothberg. The start-up's goal is to sell licenses for an expanded version of the software and offer companies customized solutions.
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