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Computers and Chemical Engineering 26 (2002) 1363 1368

www.elsevier.com/locate/compchemeng

Study on flexibility of sensor network for linear processes


Bo Li, Bing-zhen Chen *
Department of Chemical Engineering, Tsinghua Uni6ersity, Beijing 100084, Peoples Republic of China

Received 2 January 2001; received in revised form 3 October 2001; accepted 23 March 2002

Abstract

This article addresses a new aspect of the problem of sensor network design, namely the concept of flexibility of sensor network.
Algorithms based on graph theoretical concepts and MINLP methods are developed for analyzing the flexibility of a given sensor
network, designing a flexible sensor network, and upgrading a sensor network to improve its flexibility. Several examples are
reported to illustrate the presented algorithms. Using the proposed approach, one can obtain a flexible sensor network, which is
able to ensure the observability of all the key variables even under some cases in which the original flowsheet changes. 2002
Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Flexibility; Sensor network design; MINLP

Nomenclature

C 2n =n(n1)/2
F flexibility of sensor network
FR flexibility demand
k number of sensors that will be used
l number of specified cycles in a process graph
L variable set consisting of all variables in a specified cycle
m number of edges in a process graph
n number of nodes in a process graph
s number of positive node-pair candidates
p number of specified paths in a process graph
P variable set consisting of all variables in a specified path
u number of unmeasured variables in a designed sensor network

1. Introduction or the infeasibility of measurement technique, it is


impossible to observe all the key variables by directly
In order to simulate, control, and optimize chemical measuring them. The selection of a suitable set of
processes, it is necessary to monitor various kinds of variables to be measured is known as the problem of
variables. However, because of the high cost of sensors sensor network design. Many scholars have made con-
tributions to this problem, and have presented various
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +86-10-627-84572; fax: + 86-10- criteria. Vaclavek and Loucka (1976) first proposed to
627-70304 design sensor networks that can ensure the observabil-
E-mail address: dcecbz@tsinghua.edu.cn (B.-z. Chen). ity of all variables; Kretsovalis and Mah (1987) used a

0098-1354/02/$ - see front matter 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 0 9 8 - 1 3 5 4 ( 0 2 ) 0 0 1 1 5 - 1
1364 B. Li, B.-z. Chen / Computers and Chemical Engineering 26 (2002) 13631368

combinatorial search based on the effect of the vari- streams. In short, possible changes in a flowsheet
ances of measurements on the precision of key variables greatly limit the usefulness of sensor networks designed
to design sensor networks. Madron and Veverka (1992) using methods presented in those existing works.
proposed to use cost and overall precision of the system This article concerns the problem of designing sensor
as the objective functions for designing sensor net- networks that can ensure the observability of all the key
works; Meyer, Lann and Koehret (1994) proposed a variables even under cases in which the original flow-
graph-oriented algorithm for designing cost-optimal sheet changes. The concept of flexibility of sensor net-
sensor networks. Ali and Narasimhan (1993) presented work is presented first. Then, the problem of analyzing
the concept of reliability, which is based on sensor the flexibility of a given sensor network is discussed.
failure probability, observability of variables, as well as After that, the problem of designing a flexible sensor
redundancy. They proposed to maximize the minimum network along with considering the cost criterion is
reliability among all variables for nonredundant sensor proposed and solved. Finally, the problem of upgrading
networks that contain minimum set of sensors. Lately, a given sensor network to improve its flexibility is
Ali and Narasimhan (1995) extended their work to discussed. Several examples are included throughout
redundant sensor networks with a specified number of the text.
sensors. Ali and Narasimhan (1996) also proposed to
design sensor networks that maximize the minimum
reliability over all variables for bilinear processes. Sen, 2. Flexibility of sensor network
Narasimhan and Deb (1998) presented a genetic al-
gorithm that can be applied to design nonredundant Due to the changes in the properties of the feed
sensor networks using different objective functions. streams, or because of the improvements in process
Bagajewicz (1997) proposed a MINLP problem to ob- technologies, the original flowsheet may have changes
tain cost-optimal sensor networks for linear processes as follows: addition and/or deletion of streams and/or
subject to constraints on precision, residual precision units. Such changes may have influences on the observ-
and error detectability. The connection between cost- ability of unmeasured variables. Addition or deletion of
optimal and maximum precision mathematical pro- units must result in addition and/or deletion of streams,
gramming models was recently established by and their influences on the observability of unmeasured
Bagajewicz and Sanchez (1999a). Bagajewicz and variables can be ascribed to addition and/or deletion of
Sanchez (1999b) also presented the concept of degree of streams. Hence, only the addition and deletion of
estimability, based on which they proposed to design streams need to be considered.
sensor networks that allow different degrees of es- For the problem of sensor network design, a linear
timability of key variables. process is always represented with an undirected pro-
All the aforementioned works based their study on cess graph that contains an additional environment
the fact that the designed sensor networks can ensure node. In such a process graph, if some unmeasured
the observability of all the key variables in a well- variables form a cycle, all the variables in such an
defined flowsheet. However, as will be shown later, if unmeasured-cycle are unobservable. On the other hand,
the original flowsheet changes because of changes of if there exists no unmeasured-cycle, a proportional
properties of feed streams, or because of improvements subset of the unmeasured variables cannot form a cycle.
in process technologies, some observable unmeasured Thus, when some streams are deleted, it is impossible
key variables may become unobservable without up- for the rest of unmeasured variables to form a new
grading the designed sensor networks. On the other cycle. Hence, the observability of the unmeasured vari-
hand, it is common that whether or not certain streams ables will remain unchanged.
exist in a flowsheet depends upon the feed stream Based on the previous analysis, only the addition of
property, thus, it is unreasonable to place sensors to streams may have influences on the observability of
measure the flow-rates of such types of conditional unmeasured variables. For the purpose of simplifica-
tion, only addition of a single stream is considered in
this article, and all variables are assumed to be key
variables.
To introduce the concept of flexibility of sensor
network, the following example provided by Ali and
Narasimhan (1993) is useful.

2.1. Example 1

Fig. 1 is a simplified ammonia process represented by


Fig. 1. Simplified ammonia process. its process graph that consists of six nodes and eight
B. Li, B.-z. Chen / Computers and Chemical Engineering 26 (2002) 13631368 1365

(2, 4), (2, 5), (2, 6), (3, 4), (3, 5) and (3, 6). The
comparison between these two alternatives shows that
the second network is able to ensure the observability
of all the unmeasured variables in the new flowsheet for
more node-pairs. That is to say, the second one is more
flexible than the first one.
For a given process graph, all of the node-pair
candidates that a new stream probably joins can be
obtained. If a sensor network can ensure the observ-
Fig. 2. Changed ammonia process. ability of all the unmeasured variables when the new
stream joins a node-pair candidate, this node-pair can-
edges. As Ali and Narasimhan (1993) showed, in order didate is defined as a positive one; otherwise, this
to observe all these eight variables, at least three vari- node-pair candidate is defined as a negative one. A
ables should be measured and the unmeasured variables sensor network is more flexible if it has more node-pair
should form a spanning tree of the process graph. For candidates that are positive. Hence, the flexibility of a
instance, if variables (1, 2, 3, 4, 7), which form a sensor network is defined as the ratio of the number of
spanning tree of the process graph, are unmeasured, positive node-pair candidates the sensor network has
then all these unmeasured variables can be estimated over the number of all the node-pair candidates. For a
through the mass balances. process graph that has n nodes and m edges, there are
How does the observability of unmeasured variables altogether C 2n node-pair candidates that the new stream
change if the original flowsheet changes? For instance, probably joins. If a sensor network has s positive
as shown in Fig. 2, suppose that stream 9 which joins node-pair candidates, its flexibility is then given by:
node-pair (1, 3) is added. It is clear that an unmea-
sured-cycle consisting of variables 1, 2, and 9, will be s
F= (1)
formed. Hence, all of these three unmeasured variables C 2n
are unobservable. It can be concluded from this exam-
ple that some unmeasured variables that can be esti- For a nonredundant sensor network, none of the
mated before become unobservable after adding the node-pair candidates is positive, thus, the flexibility of a
new stream. Furthermore, for such a nonredundant nonredundant sensor network is zero. On the other
sensor network, wherever the new stream is introduced, hand, for a sensor network in which all variables are
an unmeasured-cycle will be produced. That is to say, a measured, all the node-pair candidates are positive
nonredundant sensor network cannot be used to ob- candidates, so that the flexibility of an all-measured
serve all the unmeasured variables when a new stream sensor network is one. The flexibility of a redundant
is added to the original flowsheet. In another word, a sensor network lies in the region [0, 1].
nonredundant sensor network is inflexible.
What is the situation with regard to redundant sensor
networks? A redundant sensor network has more mea- 3. Flexibility analysis of a sensor network
sured variables than a nonredundant sensor network,
and the unmeasured variables in a redundant sensor According to the definition of flexibility of sensor
network should not form any cycle of the process network, if either the number of positive candidates or
graph. Consider two redundant sensor networks with the number of negative candidates can be obtained,
different criteria for the ammonia process (Fig. 1). The then it is possible to calculate its flexibility using Eq.
first network has unmeasured variables (1, 2, 3, 4), (1).
while the second one has unmeasured variables (1, 2, 4, Using the property that: if there is a path (i, j )
7). Both of these alternatives have four measured vari- consisting of only unmeasured variables, then the addi-
ables and can ensure the observability of all the unmea- tion of a new stream joining (i, j ) will produce an
sured variables. However, after a new stream is added unmeasured-cycle, it can be deduced that if there exists
to the original flowsheet, the abilities of these two an unmeasured-path between (i, j ), then the candidate
alternatives to ensure the observability of all the un- (i, j ) is a negative one. Hence, if the number of
measured variables become different. For the first one, unmeasured-paths in a process graph is p, then the
only when the new stream joins one of the node-pairs number of the negative candidates is p, and the number
(1, 6), (2, 6), (3, 6), (4, 6) and (5, 6), can the observabil- of the positive candidates is C 2n p. Thus, the flexibility
ity of all the unmeasured variables be assured. In the of the sensor network is given by:
second one, on the other hand, the observability of all
the unmeasured variables can be assured when the new p
F= 1 (2)
stream joins one of the node-pairs (1, 4), (1, 5), (1, 6), C 2n
1366 B. Li, B.-z. Chen / Computers and Chemical Engineering 26 (2002) 13631368

The bigger F is, the more flexible the given sensor Algorithm 1.
network will be. 1. Find all the paths no greater than m k in the
process graph. Suppose that the number of such
paths is p, and the variables in jth path form set Pj.
4. Flexibility design of a sensor network 2. Find all the cycles having no more than mk edges
in the process graph. Suppose that the number of
Considering possible changes of the flowsheet, it is such cycles is l, and the variables in jth cycle form
preferable to design a flexible sensor network while set Lj.
other criteria, such as cost, reliability, and precision, are 3. Solve the MINLP problem (P1)
constrained. In this section, the problem of designing a p
flexible sensor network along with considering the cost min % 5 yi
criterion represented with the number of sensors will be j = 1 i  Pj

studied specifically, and the strategy for designing a


sensor network which maximizes flexibility with a spe- s.t. 5 yj = 0 , j = 1, 2, , l
i  Lj
cified number of sensors will be given.
m
For a process graph having n nodes and m edges, at % yi = mk
least m n+ 1 variables should be measured to ensure i=1
the observability of all variables. Thus, the number of yi = 0, 1 , i= 1, 2, , m
sensors, k, in a flexible sensor network, must be greater
than m n + 1. Based on the flexibility analysis out-
lined in the previous section, the flexibility of a sensor 4. In the solution, the variables such that yi = 0 should
network is maximized when the number of unmea- be measured, and the flexibility of such a sensor
sured-paths in the process graph is minimized. When a network is:
flexible sensor network has k sensors, each of the p

unmeasured-paths in the process has length no greater % 5 yi


j = 1 i  Pj
than m k. Therefore, the number of paths no greater F= 1 2
(4)
C n
than m k in the process graph should be minimized.
Additionally, in order to ensure the observability of all
variables, the unmeasured variables should not form
any cycle. To facilitate this design strategy, a binary
variable y, introduced for each variable, is defined as The first two steps in this algorithm can be processed
follows: using algorithms provided by Yang (1988). The simple

yi =
!
0 if variable i is measured
(3)
MINLP model given in (P1) can be easily solved using
LINGO (LINDO Systems Inc., 2001) or other such
1 if variable i is unmeasured software.
Following Algorithm 1, one can design flexible sen-
According to the definition of yi, the following two sor networks for the ammonia process (Fig. 1) with a
facts can be deduced: if the product of all the binary specified number of sensors. The results are shown in
variables in a path is one, this path is an unmeasured- Table 1. It should be noted that there exist more than
path; if the product of all the binary variables in a cycle one solution having equal flexibility and equal number
is one, this cycle is an unmeasured-cycle. On the other of sensors. Thus, one can choose a solution, which has
hand, if the product of all the binary variables in a a higher reliability or higher precision. However, since
cycle/path is zero, then this cycle/path has at least one that is not the main purpose of this article, the solu-
measured variable. tions listed in Table 1 have been selected randomly.
Based on the above analysis, the strategy of designing
a flexible sensor network with k sensors is given as
follows: 5. Retrofit of a sensor network to improve its flexibility
Table 1
Flexible sensor networks for ammonia process
To enhance the ability of an existing sensor network
to ensure the observability of all variables while the
Number of sensors Unmeasured variables Flexibility flowsheet changes, it is better to analyze the flexibility
of the given sensor network, and to upgrade it to
4 (1, 2, 4, 7) 0.6 improve its flexibility when necessary. One way to
5 (1, 4, 7) 0.733
6 (1, 3) 0.867
upgrade the given sensor network is to redesign it with
7 (1) 0.933 the sensors it has had, and to reach a solution which
maximizes the flexibility using Algorithm 1. Another
B. Li, B.-z. Chen / Computers and Chemical Engineering 26 (2002) 13631368 1367

2. Solve the following MINLP problem (P2)


u
min % (1yi )
i=1
p
s.t. % 5 yi 5 C 2n(1FR) , j=1, 2, , p
j = 1 i  Pj

yi = 0, 1 , i= 1, 2, , u

3. In the solution, the variables such that yi = 1 should


Fig. 3. Simplified flowsheet of a crude oil atmospheric distillation
remain unmeasured, while those for which yi =0
unit.
should be measured.

The following practical example illustrates the useful-


ness of retrofitting of a sensor network to improve its
flexibility.

5.1. Example 2

Fig. 3 is the simplified flowsheet of a crude oil


atmospheric distillation unit. The designed sensor net-
Fig. 4. Flowsheet after a new stream is introduced. work is given as a nonredundant sensor network, in
which (1, 2, 5, 6, 7) are unmeasured.
Table 2 In order to increase the yields of the light compo-
Results of upgraded sensor networks nents, sometimes there is a need to add a stream that
joins unit 1 and 4, shown as the dashed stream 14 in
Flexibility Unmeasured New measured variables
requirement variables Fig. 4. After the flowsheet changes, an unmeasured-cy-
cle consisting of stream 14, 5, and 6, is produced.
0.2 (1, 2, 6, 7) 5 Therefore, these three variables are unobservable with
0.4 (1, 2, 6, 7) 5 the given sensor network. Furthermore, even an opti-
0.6 (1, 2, 6, 7) 5
mal redundant sensor network with respect to one of
0.8 (1, 2, 5) 6,7
0.9 (1) 2, 5, 6, 7 those criteria presented in the existing works, for in-
stance, cost, reliability, and precision, cannot ensure the
observability of these three variables if stream 5 and 6
way to increase its flexibility is to add a minimum are unmeasured. On the other hand, the existence of
number of sensors. Only the second way needs to be stream 14 depends upon the composition of the feed
discussed here. stream, so it is unreasonable to place a sensor to
Based on the flexibility analysis, to improve the flexi- measure the flow-rate of such kind of stream.
bility of the given sensor network, it is necessary to To improve the ability of the designed sensor net-
reduce the number of unmeasured-paths. For this pur- work to observe all the unmeasured variables after the
pose, a binary variable y, introduced for each unmea- flowsheet changes, it is possible using Algorithm 2 to
sured variable, is defined as follows: increase the flexibility of the sensor network to the

yi =
!
0 if variable i should be measured
(5)
levels listed in the first column in Table 2. The results
are listed in Table 2, and all the upgraded sensor
networks in Table 2 can be used to observe all the
1 if variable i should keep unmeasured
unmeasured variables after stream 14 is introduced. It
For a given sensor network which has n nodes and u should be noted that more than one solution can be
unmeasured variables, the strategy to improve its flexi- obtained by solving model (P2), and the results listed in
bility to FR is given as follows: Table 2 are selected randomly.
An upgraded sensor network in which variables 1 is
Algorithm 2. the new measured variable, whose flexibility is 0.333,
1. Obtain all the unmeasured-paths in the process can also meet the first flexibility level. However, it
graph with the given sensor network. Suppose that cannot ensure the observability of all the unmeasured
the number of such paths is p, and the variables in variables when stream 14 is introduced. To make the
jth unmeasured-path form set Pj. upgraded sensor networks more useful, the unmea-
1368 B. Li, B.-z. Chen / Computers and Chemical Engineering 26 (2002) 13631368

sured-cycle consisting of variable 5, variables 6, and broken while designing a flexible sensor network, and
variable 14, should be broken with the upgraded sensor corresponding constraints should be added to the
networks. Thus, the corresponding constraints should MINLP models (P1) and (P2). This modification of
be added to the MINLP model (P2). Solving the MINLP models makes the method of designing flexible
modified MINLP model, one can obtain upgraded sen- sensor networks more useful.
sor networks that meet the flexibility demands and can In summary, the flexibility of sensor network is a
ensure the observability of all the unmeasured variables criterion as important as other criteria, such as cost,
when stream 14 is introduced. reliability, precision, and so on. More solutions that are
useful can be reached by considering this aspect while
designing sensor networks, especially for processes
whose flowsheets are likely to change.
6. Discussion and conclusion

Among all the criteria presented in the literatures on


sensor network design, the most fundamental one is to References
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