Design and evaluation of an optimal controller for simultaneous saccharification and fermentation process

Ganti S. Murthy, David B. Johnston, Kent D. Rausch, M. E. Tumbleson, Vijay Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ethanol from corn is produced using dry grind corn process in which simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) is one of the most critical unit operations. In this work an optimal controller based on a previously validated SSF model was developed by formulating the SSF process as a Bolza problem and using gradient descent methods. Validation experiments were performed to evaluate the performance of optimal controller under different process disturbances that are likely to occur in practice. Use of optimal control algorithm for the SSF process resulted in lower peak glucose concentration, similar ethanol yields (13.38±0.36% v/v and 13.50±0.15% v/v for optimally controlled and baseline experiments, respectively). Optimal controller improved final ethanol concentrations as compared to process without optimal controller under conditions of temperature (13.35±1.28 and 12.52±1.19% v/v for optimal and no optimal control, respectively) and pH disturbances (12.65±0.74 and 11.86±0.49% v/v for optimal and no optimal control, respectively). Cost savings due to lower enzyme usage and reduced cooling requirement were estimated to be up to $1 million for a 151 million L/yr (40 million gal/yr) dry grind plant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-111
Number of pages25
JournalApplied Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Cybernetic model
  • Dry grind corn ethanol
  • Gradient descent
  • Optimal controller
  • Process disturbances
  • SSF process
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Molecular Biology


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