Different areas of engineering, particularly separation process technology, deal with one-dimensional, nonstationary processes that under reasonable assumptions, namely negligible dispersion effects and transport resistances, are described by mathematical models consisting of systems of first-order partial differential equations. Their behavior is characterized by continuous or discontinuous composition (or thermal) fronts that propagate along the separation unit. The equilibrium theory (i.e., the approach discussed here to determine the solution to these model equations) predicts this with remarkable accuracy, despite the simplifications and assumptions. Interesting applications are in adsorption, chromatography and ion-exchange, distillation, gas injection, heat storage, sedimentation, precipitation, and dissolution waves. We show how mathematics can enlighten the engineering aspects, and we guide the researcher not only to reach a synthetic understanding of properties of fundamental and applicative interest but also to discover new, unexpected, and fascinating phenomena. The tools presented here are useful to teachers, researchers, and practitioners alike.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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