IIT Mandi Uses AI-enhanced Operation Research To Select Appropriate Wastewater Management Method

While selecting the most environment-friendly wastewater treatment technology, the study also helps to take large-scale decisions such as investments and socio-cultural policies

IIT Mandi

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Mandi used AI-enhanced Operation Research (OR) tools to select wastewater management methods that meet the socio-economic needs specific to places and environments.  

The findings of the research have been published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. The paper has been authored by Dr Atul Dhar, Associate Professor, School of Engineering and Dr Satvasheel Powar, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering, IIT Mandi, along with their research scholar, Shubham Dutt Attri and Shweta Singh.

The researcher derived inspiration from the concept of 'Appropriate Technology (AT)', a term introduced by British economist E. F. Schumacher, that posits that any choice must be consistent with the cultural, social, economic, and political institutions of the society.  To choose the AT for wastewater management, researchers employed tools that combine Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Operations Research (OR) concepts to help with the decision-making process. 

The researchers first shortlisted available technologies based on availability and primary studies. The technologies spanned both traditional and novel industrial technologies such as Activated Sludge Process (ASP), Membrane Bioreactor (MBR), Moving Bed Biofilm Reactors (MBBR), Fluidized Aerobic Bed (FAB) Reactors, Sequential Batch Reactor (SBR), and Biopipe.  

The researchers then identified sustainability criteria and their indicators. Seventeen criteria were selected from the areas of environmental sustainability, economic affordability, social acceptability and functional aspects. Then, the significance of the criteria was decided by experts in the field. This was followed by the creation of a decision matrix, and the application of fuzzy-logic MCDM algorithms such as F-SWARA, F-MOORA, and F-TOPSIS, to obtain the ranking of the various techniques according to sustainability criteria.  The decisions made by these methods were validated through analysis.  

While the study was conducted to select the most environment friendly wastewater treatment technology, it can also be applied to any multi-criteria selection problem that could be as minor as deciding on a consumer product to large scale decisions such as investments and socio-cultural policies. This combination of techniques is also useful from a policy standpoint, as it incorporates input from both technology and people, and consider sentiments when making decisions. 

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