Machine learning for surrogate process models of bioproduction pathways
Technoeconomic analysis and life-cycle assessment are critical to guiding and prioritizing bench-scale experiments and to evaluating economic and environmental performance of biofuel or biochemical production processes at scale. Traditionally, commercial process simulation tools have been used to develop detailed models for these purposes. However, developing and running such models can be costly and computationally intensive, which limits the degree to which they can be shared and reproduced in the broader research community. This study evaluates the potential of an automated machine learning approach to develop surrogate models based on conventional process simulation models. The analysis focuses on several high-value biofuels and bioproducts for which pathways of production from biomass feedstocks have been well-established. The results demonstrate that surrogate models can be an accurate and effective tool for approximating the cost, mass and energy balance outputs of more complex process simulations at a fraction of the computational expense.