Convolutional neural nets in chemical engineering: Foundations, computations, and applications

Image credit: Shengli Jiang


In this article, we review the mathematical foundations of convolutional neural nets (CNNs) with the goals of (i) highlighting connections with techniques from statistics, signal processing, linear algebra, differential equations, and optimization, (ii) demystifying underlying computations, and (iii) identifying new types of applications. CNNs are powerful machine learning models that highlight features from grid data to make predictions (regression and classification). The grid data object can be represented as vectors (in 1D), matrices (in 2D), or tensors (in 3D or higher dimensions) and can incorporate multiple channels (thus providing high flexibility in the input data representation). CNNs highlight features from the grid data by performing convolution operations with different types of operators. The operators highlight different types of features (e.g., patterns, gradients, geometrical features) and are learned by using optimization techniques. In other words, CNNs seek to identify optimal operators that best map the input data to the output data. A common misconception is that CNNs are only capable of processing image or video data but their application scope is much wider; specifically, datasets encountered in diverse applications can be expressed as grid data. Here, we show how to apply CNNs to new types of applications such as optimal control, flow cytometry, multivariate process monitoring, and molecular simulations.

AIChE Journal 67.9 (2021): e17282
Shengli Jiang
Shengli Jiang
Postdoctoral Associate

My research interests include molecular modeling, machine learning, and materials design.