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Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava

Institute of Information Engineering, Automation, and Mathematics

17 th
International Conference on Process Control 2009
Hotel Baník, Štrbské Pleso, Slovakia, June 9 – 12, 2009
ISBN 978-80-227-3081-5

Editors: M. Fikar and M. Kvasnica

Závacká, J., Bakošová, M., Vaneková, K.: Control of a Laboratory Chemical Reactor Using Robust PI
Controller, Editors: Fikar, M., Kvasnica, M., In Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on
Process Control ’09, Štrbské Pleso, Slovakia, 363–367, 2009.

Full paper online:

17th International Conference on Process Control 2009
June 9–12, 2009, Štrbské Pleso, Slovakia Le-Th-2, 054.pdf



J. Závacká, M. Bakošová, K. Vaneková

Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, Faculty of

Chemical and Food Technology, Institute of Information
Engineering, Automation and Mathematics,
Radlinského 9, 812 37 Bratislava, Slovakia
fax : +421 2 52496469, e-mail:

Abstract: The paper presents a method for design of robust PI controllers for
systems with interval uncertainty. The method is based on plotting the stability
boundary locus in the (kp , ki )-plane. Then parameters of stabilizing PI controllers
are determined. The designed robust PI controller is used for control of a laboratory
chemical continuous stirred tank reactor Armfield PCT40. The reactor is used for
preparing of NaCl solution with desired concentration. The conductivity of the
solution is the controlled variable and the volumetric flow rate of water is the control

Keywords: interval uncertainty, PI controller, robust control, chemical reactor

1. INTRODUCTION rameters of a stabilizing PI controller are deter-

mined from the stability region. The PI controller
stabilizes a controlled system with interval para-
Chemical reactors are ones of the most important metric uncertainties, when the stability region is
plants in chemical industry, see e.g. Mikleš and found for sufficient number of Kharitonov plants.
Fikar (2007). Their operation, however, is cor-
rupted with various uncertainties. Some of them The approach is used for design of a robust PI
arise from varying or not exactly known param- controller for a laboratory continuous stirred tank
eters, as e.g. reaction rate constants, reaction reactor, which can be modelled in the form of
enthalpies or heat transfer coefficients. In other a transfer function with parametric interval un-
cases, operating points of reactors vary or reactor certainty. The reactor serves for preparing of the
dynamics is affected by various changes of pa- NaCl solution with required concentration. Com-
rameters of inlet streams. All these uncertainties position of the solution is determined by measure-
can cause poor performance or even instability of ment of the solution conductivity and the conduc-
closed-loop control systems. Application of robust tivity is the controlled variable. The volumetric
control approach can be one of ways for over- flow rate of water which is used for adulterating
coming all these problems, which may seriously of NaCl solution, is the control variable.
influence control design for chemical reactors and
other chemical processes, see e.g. Alvarez-Ramirez
and Femat (1999), Gerhard et al. (2004).
In this paper, a simple method for design of robust CONTINUOUS STIRRED TANK REACTOR
PI controllers is presented (Tan and Kaya (2003)).
The method is based on plotting the stability Multifunctional process control teaching system -
boundary locus in the (kp , ki )-plane and then pa- The Armfield PCT40 (Armfield (2005), Vojtešek

17th International Conference on Process Control 2009
June 9–12, 2009, Štrbské Pleso, Slovakia Le-Th-2, 054.pdf

et al. (2007)) is the system which enables to of the rotor are very small and the produced force
test a wide class of technological processes, as a is not high enough to transport the fluid from the
tank, a heat exchanger, a continuous stirred tank barrel. The volumetric flow rate of the NaCl so-
reactor and their combinations (Armfield (2006a), lution for all measurements was 0.2222 dm3 /min,
Armfield (2006b)). which represents the pumpe performance 30%.
PCT40 unit consists of two process vessels, several The water was dosed into the reactor by the PSV.
pumps, sensors and connection to the computer. Application of the PSV allowed flow measure-
Additional equipments PCT41 and PCT42 (Fig- ments by the adjoint flowmeter. The PSV opening
ure 1) represent a chemical reactor with a stirrer could be again done in the range 0−100%, but the
and a cooling/heating coil. volumetric flow rate of water for the PSV opening
in the range 0 − 15% was negligible.
For control purposes, the laboratory continuous
stirred tank reactor is a SISO system. The control
variable is the volumetric flow rate of water (F )
and the controlled variable is the conductivity of
the NaCl solution (G) inside the reactor. Used
water was cold water from the standard water
distribution. The volume of the solution in the
reactor was kept constant with the value 1 dm3
during all experiments.


Identification of the controlled laboratory reactor

was done from measured step responses. The con-
stant flow rate 0.2222 dm3 /min of NaCl solution
Fig. 1. Laboratory continuous stirred tank reactor dosed into the reactor was assured by the peri-
staltic pump with performance 30% in all exper-
Inlet streams of reactants can be injected into the iments. Three various step changes of water flow
reactor via a normally closed solenoid valve or by a rate were realized: 0 − 0.1804 dm3 /min, 0 − 1.3
proportional solenoid valve (PSV). The third pos- dm3 /min and 0−1.78 dm3 /min which represented
sibility for feeding water into the reactor is using the PSV opening 0 − 20%, 0 − 50% and 0 − 100%.
one of two peristaltic pumps. The technological The step responses were measured repeatedly. The
parameters of the reactor are shown in Table 1. resultant transfer function of the laboratory re-
Table 1. Technological parameters of actor was identified (Ľ. Čirka and Fikar (2007))
the reactor in the form of a transfer function (1) with the
parametric interval uncertainty. The values of the
Parameter Value
uncertain parameters are shown in Table 2. Nom-
Vessel diameter 0.153 m
Maximum vessel depth 0.108 m inal values of the uncertain parameters are the
Maximum operation volume 2l mean values of intervals.
Minimum vessel depth 0.054 m
Minimum operation volume 1l
G(s) = (1)
The connection to the computer is realized via a2 s2 + a1 s + a0
an I/O connector, which is connected to the PCL
card. The card used is the MF624 multifunction Table 2. Uncertain parameters
I/O card from Humusoft. This card has 8 inputs Parameter Minimal Maximal Nominal
and 8 outputs. The whole system provides 9 value value value
inputs and 17 outputs, hence two MF624 cards b0 0.00405 0.178 0.091
were used. This connection enables use of Matlab a2 130 500 315
Real-time Toolbox and Simulink or data entry a1 36.5 148 92.25
a0 1 1 1
from the Matlab command window.
NaCl solution with the concentration 0.8555 The measured step response of the laboratory
mol/dm3 is fed into the reactor by a peristatic reactor and the simulated step response of the
pump. The performance of the pump may be reactor with the identified transfer function (1)
theoretically set in the range 0 − 100%. But for are compared in Figure 2 for the maximal step
the pump performance less than 20%, revolutions change of input variable.

17th International Conference on Process Control 2009
June 9–12, 2009, Štrbské Pleso, Slovakia Le-Th-2, 054.pdf

12 The closed loop characteristic polynomial is as


∆(jω) = [ki Nie (−ω 2 ) − kp ω 2 Nio (−ω 2 )−

−ω 2 Djo (−ω 2 )] + j[kp ωNie (−ω 2 )+ (6)
+ki ωNio (−ω 2 ) + ωDje (−ω 2 )]

Then, equating the real and imaginary parts of
∆(jω) to zero, one obtains
2 measured G
identified G kp (−ω 2 Nio (−ω 2 )) + ki (Nie (−ω 2 ))
0 = ω 2 Djo (−ω 2 )
0 200 400 600 800 1000
t[s] and

Fig. 2. Comparision of the measured and the

kp (Nie (−ω 2 )) + ki (Nio (−ω 2 ))
simulated step responses of the reactor (8)
= −Dje (−ω 2 )
After denoting
A simple method based on plotting the stability
boundary locus in the (kp , ki )-plane is used for Fi (ω) = −ω 2 Nio (−ω 2 )
robust PI controller design, Tan and Kaya (2003), Gi (ω) = Nie (−ω 2 )
Závacká et al. (2008). Parameters of a stabilizing Hi (ω) = Nie (−ω 2 )
PI controller are detemined from the stability re- Ii (ω) = Nio (−ω 2 )
gion of the (kp , ki )-plane. The PI controller stabi- Jj (ω) = ω 2 Djo (−ω 2 )
lizes a controlled system with interval parametric Kj (ω) = −Dje (−ω 2 )
uncertainties, when the stability region is found
(7), (8) and (9) can be written as
for suffucient number of Kharitonov plants.
For the controlled system in the form of the kp Fi (ω) + ki Gi (ω) = Jj (ω)
transfer function (1) with interval uncertainty (10)
kp Hi (ω) + ki Ii (ω) = Kj (ω)
(Table 2), the Kharitonov polynomials Ni (s), i =
1, 2 for the numerator and Dj (s), j = 1, 2, 3, 4 for From these equations, parameters of the PI con-
the denominator can be created, as it is seen in troller are expressed in the form
(2), (3).
N1 (s) = b− Jj (ω)Ii (ω) − Kj (ω)Gi (ω)
0 (2) kp = (11)
N2 (s) = b+
0 Fi (ω)Ii (ω) − Gi (ω)Hi (ω)
D1 (s) = a− −
2 + a1 + a0
D2 (s) = a2 + a1 + a0
+ +
(3) Kj (ω)Fi (ω) − Jj (ω)Hi (ω)
D3 (s) = 2 + a1 + a0
a+ −
ki = (12)
D4 (s) = −
a2 + a+ Fi (ω)Ii (ω) − Gi (ω)Hi (ω)
1 + a0
Consider one of the systems (4), where i = 2 and
where b−0 and b0 are lower and upper bounds of
the b0 interval and a−
k and ak , k = 1, 2, are lower
G22 (s) = (13)
and upper bounds of intervals of denominator 500s2 + 148s + 1
parameters. 8 Kharitonov systems (4) can be
The closed loop characteristic polynomial has
obtained using polynomials (2), (3)
according to (6) the form

Ni (s) ∆(jω) = [−a+

1 ω + b0 ki ]+
2 +
Gij (s) = (4) +j[−a2 ω + b0 kp ω + ω]
+ 3 +
Dj (s)
and then
Substituting s = jω into (4) and decomposing
the numerator and the denominator polynomials
of (4) into their even and odd parts one obtains kp = 2890ω 2 − 5.6180
ki = 831.4607ω 2
Nie (−ω 2 ) + jωNio (−ω 2 ) The stability boundary of the closed loop char-
Gij (jω) = (5)
Dje (−ω 2 ) + jωDjo (−ω 2 ) acteristic polynomial in the (kp ,ki )-plane for ω =

17th International Conference on Process Control 2009
June 9–12, 2009, Štrbské Pleso, Slovakia Le-Th-2, 054.pdf

[0 : 0.001 : 0.5] is plot in the Figure 3. It is seen 200

in the figure that the region is split in two parts,
stable and unstable ones. Parameters kp and ki
of the stabilizing controller are chosen from the 150
stable region.

200 100

150 50

100 0
0 50 100 150

50 Stable parameters for G (s)

Fig. 5. Detail of the stability region for 8

Kharitonov plants
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 solution, control variable u(t) was the water flow
p rate F [dm3 .min−1 ] and the reference w(t) was
the conductivity of the NaCl solution which corre-
Fig. 3. Stability region of parameters kp , ki for the sponded to the required concentration of the NaCl
system G22 (s) solution.
Stable regions for all 8 Kharitonov systems are Obtained experimental results are presented in
obtained alike. In the Figure 4 are shown stable re- the Figures 6 and 7. Robustness of the designed
gions for 8 Kharitonov systems (4). The controller PI controller (16) was tested by setting the ref-
which stabilizes all 8 Kharitonov systems has to erence value in a wider area. In the Figure 6 are
be found in the intersection of all stable regions, control responses of the reactor for w ∈ [8; 16] mS
which is in detail displaied in the Figure 5. and in the Figure 7 for w ∈ [11; 21] mS.


The robust PI controller was designed for control

1000 of the laboratory continuous stirred tank reactor.
A simple robust synthesis was used which was
based on plotting the stability boundary locus

in the (kp , ki )-plane. The stabilizing PI controller

500 was chosen from the stable region of the (kp , ki )-
plane. The designed controller was tested experi-
mentally by control of a laboratory reactor. Ob-
tained experimental results confirm that the de-
0 signed robust PI controller succesfully controlled
0 1000 2000 3000 4000
kp the laboratory reactor. The varying reference was
always reached. The conrol responses were with-
Fig. 4. Stability regions for 8 Kharitonov plants out overshoots and fast enough. The future work
will be focused on improvement the choice of a
The parameters of the robust PI controller for stabilizing controller so that also the quality of
control of the laboratory reactor (16) were chosen control will be assured.
from the stable region of parameters kp , ki ac-
cording to simulation results obtained for various
choices of PI controllers.
kp s + ki 110s + 12
C(s) = = (16) The work has been supported by the Scientific
s s
Grant Agency of the Slovak Republic under grants
The designed PI controller was used for control 1/4055/07, 1/0071/09 and by the Slovak Re-
of the laboratory reactor. The controlled variable search and Development Agency under the project
y(t) was the conductivity G [mS] of the NaCl APVV-0029-07.

17th International Conference on Process Control 2009
June 9–12, 2009, Štrbské Pleso, Slovakia Le-Th-2, 054.pdf

18 24
y(t) y(t)
w(t) w(t)





8 12

6 10
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000
t[s] t[s]

1500 1600





F[dm /min].10



0 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000
0 1000 2000 3000 4000

Fig. 6. Control of the reactor with robust PI Fig. 7. Control of the reactor with robust PI
controller controller
J. Vojtešek, J. Dostal, and R. Matušů. Multifunc-
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