Fast and versatile chromatography process design and operation optimization with the aid of artificial intelligence
Preparative and process chromatography is a versatile unit operation for the capture, purification, and polishing of a broad variety of molecules, especially very similar and complex compounds such as sugars, isomers, enantiomers, diastereomers, plant extracts, and metal ions such as rare earth elements. Another steadily growing field of application is biochromatography, with a diversity of complex compounds such as peptides, proteins, mAbs, fragments, VLPs, and even mRNA vaccines. Aside from molecular diversity, separation mechanisms range from selective affinity ligands, hydrophobic interaction, ion exchange, and mixed modes. Biochromatography is utilized on a scale of a few kilograms to 100,000 tons annually at about 20 to 250 cm in column diameter. Hence, a versatile and fast tool is needed for process design as well as operation optimization and process control. Existing process modeling approaches have the obstacle of sophisticated laboratory scale experimental setups for model parameter determination and model validation. For a broader application in daily project work, the approach has to be faster and require less effort for non-chromatography experts. Through the extensive advances in the field of artificial intelligence, new methods have emerged to address this need. This paper proposes an artificial neural network-based approach which enables the identification of competitive Langmuir-isotherm parameters of arbitrary three-component mixtures on a previously specified column. This is realized by training an ANN with simulated chromatograms varying in isotherm parameters. In contrast to traditional parameter estimation techniques, the estimation time is reduced to milliseconds, and the need for expert or prior knowledge to obtain feasible estimates is reduced.