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Introduction

The primary mission of the Laboratory for the Simulation and Control of Processes (LSCP) is the consolidation of efforts directed towards the modeling, optimization and control of chemical processes of industrial significance. Although primarily a Laboratory with a mission focused on applied research, the LSCP has strong internal and external links to basic research in chemistry and chemical engineering and to the Brazilian chemical industry. This characteristic of the LSCP provides an efficient feedback mechanism for channeling scientific knowledge derived from basic research into industrial applications and for translating necessities detected in industry into new basic and applied research initiatives.

The primary research goals of the LSCP are: (a) the development of new strategies and novel technologies for the modeling, optimization and control of industrial chemical processes (as well as complex chemical systems in general) and of integrated chemical plants; (b) the modeling and optimization of scheduling problems in the chemical process industry. One of the priorities associated with the first goal is the consolidation of a multidisciplinary approach to the problem of modeling and optimization, integrating recent advances in the prediction of the physical and chemical properties of materials (molecular modeling, semi-empirical quantum chemical calculations, quantitative structure-property free energy relationships - QSPR, etc.) with state-of-the-art engineering approaches such as neural network simulation, pioneered in the area of Chemical Engineering in Brazil by the LSCP/EP-USP. The other major priority is the development of new, more efficient mathematical algorithms for the optimization and control of large, complex, multivariate systems of relevance to the chemical industry. Much of the new technology resulting from these research efforts is transferred to the Brazilian chemical industry via existing cooperative channels. The Laboratory for the Simulation and Control of Processes (LSCP) of the DEQ/EP-USP has an extensive track record of successful development and transfer of industrial simulation and control technology to industries such as Petrobras, Rhodia, Copene, Fafen and others.

The research focus of the LSCP is of fundamental importance to the Brazilian chemical industry. Indeed, Petrobras, the largest Brazilian company, has designated the automation and control of processes as one of the five strategic areas for university-industry-government joint initiatives. The perspectives of technology transfer from the Center to the Brazilian chemical industry are further enhanced by two additional factors: (1) the LSCP already has a proven track record of successful technology transfer to the Brazilian chemical industry; (2) direct mechanisms and channels for technology transfer are already in place. In this context, Petrobras is the industrial partner of the LSCP in a FAPESP-supported Technological Innovation project in the area of petroleum refinery optimization and the LSCP is the primary academic partner and site of the Petrobras Center of Excellence in the Automation and Control of Processes.