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Training in Upscaling particle Systems: Advancing Industry across Length-scales

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TUSAIL (Training in Upscaling particle Systems: Advancing Industry across Length-scales)

Reporting period: 2021-03-01 to 2023-02-28

Over 75% of all industrial material feedstock are particulates in nature. These particle systems regularly display undesirable and unpredictable behaviour, due to their multi-scale nature from discrete particles and their contacts to large scale industrial processes. Industrial surveys have reported that almost 10% of global energy is wasted because 40% of the capacity of industrial plants is lost due to undesired and misunderstood particle phenomena. Often-encountered challenges include failure of equipment, such as the bridging and jamming of flows in silos, segregation/mixing issues in multi-ingredient products, caking or clumping in cohesive powders, and deterioration of particulate product quality. Addressing these problems is important in a vast range of industrial sectors, ranging from minerals, agriculture and food processing to plastics, consumer and personal care products, pharmaceutics and the environment: all vital to future wealth creation, health and environmental sustainability. The micro-to-macro link is a major obstacle due to a significant gap in the knowledge to understand the phenomena and the methods to deal with the spatial and temporal length scales present in these particle processes. A better understanding of upscaling will bridge the gap, leading to improved designs and optimisation of particulate processes and products.

TUSAIL will train 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) to become creative, entrepreneurial and innovative individuals in developing, applying and validating three novel modelling methodologies in the upscaling of industrial particulate processes. The validated upscaling methodologies will not only increase flexibility and adaptability of industry, but also accelerate technology adoption and thus significantly advance the competitiveness and innovation capacity of European industry.

TUSAIL will have a immediate and long-term impact on Europe, strengthening the ESRs’ career perspectives, boosting EU industry and benefiting society. Training in these novel technologies for upscaling of particulate processes will support meeting critical needs in the design and operation of particulate processes in manufacturing. We will address the lack of well-trained IT experts in this field to support the EU's Digital Skills Strategy. The market for particulate products is considerable in the EU and estimated to be ~£1,000 billion per year in emerging overseas markets. Handling of these particulate systems is therefore hugely significant across many EU industrial sectors. TUSAIL will give a competitive edge to European companies by training R&D staff capable of addressing a critical unmet need, thus contributing to future productivity and growth.

TUSAIL will also have a real societal and environmental impact by providing innovative effective solutions to reduce industrial wastage and minimize energy consumption, e.g. milling is less than 10% energy efficient and uses 5% of global energy. TUSAIL will therefore contribute towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
TUSAIL will establish physics-based modelling, starting from characterising a small amount of a powder, and to predict the behaviour of large industrial unit operations and processes via reliable upscaling methodologies and tools, bridging the gap between micro-mechanics and the industrial scale. Our 15 research projects are focusing on three major modelling pathways, namely Population Balance Models (PBM); Meso-scale Particle Methods, and Discrete to Continuum Models. Each upscaling method is tackled by a number of ESRs, who are conducting DEM discrete particle simulations on their respective industrial problems, and extracting information about particle behaviour from DEM simulations and laboratory element tests. The three modelling pathways are supported, compared and combined by an overarching project where ESRs generate a public database on material calibration and process validation experiments.

TUSAIL’s training and research involves multiple research disciplines (materials, physics, engineering, computational science and mathematics) across a diversity of industrial sectors. The soft skill training goals involve high-intensity training in transferable, inter-sectoral skills, embedded in existing graduate schools, and adopting novel training methods from industry.
Due to their multi-scale complexity, TUSAIL’s three novel upscaling approaches are urgently needed to advance the design and control of industrial particle systems across the many length-scales involved in these industrial particle processes. Work Package 4 allows all ESRs to contribute to compare/combine the methods, and to create a common experimental database for model calibration and simulation validation of the new upscaling methods developed. TUSAIL thus builds on the existing state-of-the-art on (i) particles & contacts, (ii) multi-scale particle methods & fundamentals, and (iii) industrial-scale modelling, and conducts the cutting-edge research to develop the three upscaling methods to support industrial innovation in design and operation of industrial particle systems. The improved understanding of upscaling will bridge the gap, leading to improved designs and optimisation of particulate processes and products. These will also lead to a real societal and environmental impact by providing innovative effective solutions to reduce industrial wastage and minimize energy consumption. TUSAIL will therefore contribute significantly towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

TUSAIL is expected to deliver its impact through several different pathways: 1.Developing the skills of researchers; 2.Enhancing the researcher’s career perspectives and employability; 3.Meaningful contribution of the non-academic sector to the research training; 4.Contribution to structuring doctoral research training at European level; 5.Contribution to strengthening European innovation capacity.

TUSAIL has made progress in achieving these aims, as planned for this stage of the project. With respect to developing the skills of researchers, we have delivered a large part of basic and advanced scientific training at the first three doctoral schools and in other online settings. We are successfully delivering towards the plan set out in our proposal, which deliberately incorporated a large variety of training opportunities and the optimally structured programme, designed to equip ESRs with the right mix of soft and technical, multi-disciplinary and inter-sectoral skills. The ESRs will develop into highly capable and desirable employees, shaping future research in the field of large industrial particulate processes and systems. Specifically, TUSAIL will educate the future leading scientists in Europe in this field and create business leaders with a strong academic background and knowledge-base in innovative production. TUSAIL is already contributing to structuring doctoral research training at European level by delivering a cohesive training programme in upscaling of large industrial particle systems. Additionally, effort is currently ongoing in setting up joint PhD agreements between the University of Edinburgh and the Universities of Twente and Salerno. Overall, TUSAIL is on track to deliver its expected impact, though obviously part of that is expected to be more visible only towards the end of the project and beyond.
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