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KAI SUNDMACHER’s aim is to introduce a more sustainable process to chemicals production. As he explains in this video, for new technological developments in chemical process engineering a new methodology is needed that is able to include many decision variables in order to find the best pathway from the raw materials to the target product. Therefore, his research team developed an elementary process function (EPF) methodology which allows them to analyze the pathway of fluid elements and the goal is to steer this fluid element along an ideal pathway towards the final state, thereby discovering the most sensitive manipulating variables. Already, the researchers have found many real-world applications for this EPF methodology, such as in the chemicals production industry, in solids production and in biotechnology.


Kai Sundmacher is Director and Scientific Member of the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems. He is also Full Professor of Process Systems Engineering at the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg and Guest Professor at the East China University of Science and Technology. Among his major research interests are the dynamics of chemical processes, multifunctional reactors, and electrochemical membrane reactors. Since 2014, he is a spokesperson of the Max Planck Research Network ‘Synthetic Biology’. Moreover, he is Review Editor of Fuel Cells and Executive Editor of Chemical Engineering Science. For his scientific work, he has won many awards, including the Hoggewerff Lecture Award in 2013.


Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems

The dynamics of recent global economic and ecologic changes necessitate both the development of sustainable production processes and the establishment of future-oriented technologies. This applies particularly to the more efficient production of chemicals and (bio)pharmaceuticals as well as to the transformation and storage of renewable energies.

The main goal of the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems in Magdeburg (MPI) is to contribute to the establishment and design of processes with ever-increasing complexity and to their economic, safe and efficient operation.

MPI scientists from different disciplines such as process engineering, chemistry, biology, biotechnology, mathematics and computer sciences develop mathematical models and computer-aided methods to simulate dynamic processes and describe their complex behavior in detail. Based on an analysis of the respective system properties, innovative approaches are developed and comprehensively evaluated. Model validation and testing of new concepts are supported by extensive experimental studies both at the laboratory and at the pilot scale level.

The MPI, founded as the first engineering institute of the Max Planck Society, started its scientific work in Magdeburg in 1998 and currently employs about 230 people. The current research focus of the institute is on the areas of chemical process engineering, bioprocess engineering, systems biology and synthetic biology, numerical mathematics, energy und process systems engineering as well as systems and control theory.

The International Max Planck Research School Magdeburg, a cooperation of the Max Planck Institute and the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, provides an excellent training and research program for Ph.D. students.

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Original publication

Towards a Methodology for the Systematic Analysis and Design of Efficient Chemical Processes: Part 1. From Unit Operations to Elementary Process Functions

Freund Hannsjörg and Sundmacher Kai
Chemical Engineering and Processing: Process Intensification
Published in 2008

Methodology for the Design of Optimal Chemical Reactors Based on the Concept of Elementary Process Functions

Sundmacher Kai, Peschel Andreas and Freund Hannsjörg
Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research
Published in 2010

Model-Based Identification and Experimental Validation of the Optimal Reaction Route for the Hydroformylation of 1-Dodecene

Seidel-Morgenstern Andreas, Sundmacher Kai, Freund Hannsjörg, Hentschel Benjamin, Kiedorf Gregor, Gerlach Martin and Hamel Christof
Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research
Published in 2015

Optimal Reactor Design via Flux Profile Analysis for an Integrated Hydroformylation Process

Sundmacher Kai, Kaiser Nicolas M, Jokiel Michael, McBride Kevin and Flassig Robert J
Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research
Published in 2017

Dynamic Flux Balance Modeling to Increase the Production of High-Value Compounds in Green Microalgae

Sundmacher Kai, Flassig Robert J, Fachet Melanie, Höffner Kai and Barton Paul I
Biotechnology for Biofuels
Published in 2016