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1 Introduction to Feedback Control

Consider a chemical process plant shown in the Fig IV.1. It has an output

that needs to be

maintained at a desired setpoint

. The process is subjected to unavoidable disturbance (load) .
One input is available in the process that can be manipulated in order to steer the process to its
desired setpoint . Hence, in the event of process disturbance drifting the process output away from
its desired setpoint, the objective of feedback control is to steer the process output at its setpoint by
manipulating the process input.

Fig. IV.1: A conceptual block diagram of feedback control loop of a chemical process

A feedback control law consists of the following steps of action:

Measurement of process output
a suitable measuring device.

, such as pressure, temperature, flow, level, composition, using

Comparison of process output and its desired setpoint

and calculation of the deviation error

Feeding the value of deviation error to the controller, which calculates the appropriate control action
to be taken.
Feeding the value of the control action to the final control element, that translates the control action
into manipulated form of process input
IV.1.1 Process

Any equipment that serves the targeted physical/chemical operation of the plant is termed as a
process. Reactors, separators, exchangers, pressure vessels, tanks, etc. are examples of a process.
Typically these processes are connected in a logical fashion and the output of one process becomes
input to the other. Any disturbance/malfunction of one process may affect other processes in the
downstream side (and upstream too, in case recycle streams are used). Detailed discussions on these
processes are not within the scope of this course, however, the modeling techniques and related
issues have already been discussed before. Process variables are primarily pressure, temperature,
flow rate, level, composition, etc . From the process control perspective, it is crucial to study how the
changes in one process variable affect the other, so that an educated measure of control action on
one variable can be taken in order to maintain the other.
IV.1.2 Measuring Instruments or Sensors
The success of any feedback control operation depends largely on accurate measurement of process
variables through appropriate sensors. There are a large number of commercial sensors available in
the market. They differ in their measuring principle(s) and/or their construction characteristics. Module
VII accounts of a few of such measuring instruments. Details of such devices may be found in technical
booklets dedicated for those individual items.
IV.1.3 Controllers
A controller is basically a mathematical function block that reads the error between desired setpoint
and the measured output and then computes the corrective action for the manipulated input that
would steer process towards the desired setpoint. There are three basic types of feedback controllers
which are widely used in the industry.
Proportional (P) controller
Proportional Integral (PI) controller
Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) controller
Let us study each one separately.
IV.1.4 Transmission Lines
Measurement and/or control signals are carried through various transmission lines. Various process
piping, connection and transmission lines, as per the standard set by International Society of
Automation (ISA), are listed in the following figure.

Fig. IV.4: Representation of process piping, connection and transmission lines

A heavy solid line represents piping,a thin solid line represents process connections to instruments, a
dashed line represents electrical signals (e.g., 420 mA connections), a slashed line represents
pneumatic signal tubes, a line with circles on it represents data links. Other connection symbols include
capillary tubing for filled systems, (e.g., remote diaphragm seals), hydraulic signal lines, and
guided/unguided electromagnetic or sonic signals. Electric/electromagnetic signals are instantaneous.
Unless the process changes very fast and/or the transmission lines are too long, the dynamic behaviors
of electric/electromagnetic transmissions are also usually ignored.

IV.2.1 Closed loop response of liquid level in a storage tank: A case study
Fig IV.7 represents the closed loop block diagram of a storage tank whose liquid level needs to be
controlled at a predefined setpoint.

Fig. IV.7: Schematic of closed loop block diagram of storage tank

We analyze various components of the above,

Process : The process has two inputs and one output. Input

is the source of disturbance. Output

height of the liquid in the tank as,


can be manipulated whereas

varies proportionally with the square root of the

The material balance around the tank gives the following


IV.2.3 Offset in the output due to a P controller

The ultimate closed loop response at
under P controller never reaches its desired setpoint.
There always remains a discrepancy between the final value of response and the setpoint. This
discrepancy is called the offset . Following derivation gives an account of the offset shown by first
order and second order processes.
The final values of the processes on unit step change in setpoint are



On choosing

, a zero offset can theoretically be obtained. However, such a higher value of Kcis

neither practical nor possible. Note that, processes having integrator term
functions do not exhibit offsets.

in their transfer

The following figures show the offsets exhibited by a first and second order processes. In both the
cases, offset is
IV.3 Stability of a closed loop process
The stability of a process is realized by the location of its poles. Existence of a positive pole leads to
the instability of the process. One of the main purpose of the controller is to ensure stable closed loop
process for the otherwise unstable open loop process.
IV.3.1 Stabilization of unstable system with a P controller
Consider an unstable process with transfer function

Let us assume

. The closed loop transfer function will be


It is evident from the above equation that one needs to set

transfer function to be stable.

in order to make the closed loop

IV.3.2 Destabilization of a stable system with a PI controller

Consider a stable process with transfer function

IV.4 Design of feedback controllers

The controller design problem is associated with three logical questions in series:
What type of controller should be used for a given process P, PI or PID ?
What should be the best values of controller parameters

What performance criterion should be used for answering above two questions?
Various performance criteria are available for the above purpose, both simple criteria and complex
criteria. Following subsections give an account for the same.
IV.4.1 Simple Performance Criteria
The simple performance criteria are based on some characteristic features of closed loop response
such as overshoot, rise time, settling time, decay ratio, frequency of oscillation of transient etc .
Designer may choose one or more of such criteria in order to arrive at a set of controller parameters.
Unfortunately, controller design based on multiple performance criteria often yields conflicting
response characteristics. For an example, smaller value of gain reduces overshoot but at the cost of
increase in settling time. The control engineers must use their experience and subjectively balance
these conflicting characteristics. From all these criteria stated above, decay ratio has been the most
popular. It has been seen that one-fourth decay ratio is a reasonable trade-off between rise time and
settling time.
IV.4.1.1 Example of one-fourth decay ratio
Let us consider that a first order system is controlled by a PI controller, with
closed loop response is given as

. Then the

IV.4.5 Cohen-Coon technique of Controller Tuning

It is observed that the response of most of the processes under step change in input yields a sigmoidal
shape (Fig. IV.13 ).

Fig. IV.13: Process Reaction Curve for Cohen Coon Method

IV.5 Stability of feedback control system

Frequency response analysis is an useful tool for designing feedback controllers. It enables the
designer to study the stability characteristics of a closed loop system using Bode or Nyquist plots and
also to select the appropriate design values of controller parameters.
IV.5.1 Bode Diagram of closed loop process
IV.5.1.1: Bode diagram of PID controler
It is also worth to study the Bode diagram of PID controller in the following figure.

Fig. IV.13(a): Bode Diagram of PID controller

The PID controllers have the following characteristics:


It is left to the reader to exercise how to arrive at above eqs. Note that the PID controllers ideally
have three asymptotes.

with a slope
with a slope
with a zero slope.

IV.5.1.2: Bode diagram of Processes in series

Let us have a control loop with two components, viz ., one PI controller and one first order plus dead
time model.

The open loop transfer function is

The above open loop transfer function is a combination of four individual processes in series, viz.,
pure gain, pure dead time, first order system and PI controller. Two time constants are observed in
frequencies viz .,


Fig. IV.13(b): Bode plot of processes in series given in example

The above figure shows the Bode plot of the open loop process indicated in this example. AR and
phase shift for all individual transfer functions as well as the overall transfer function have been
indicated along with the location of corner frequencies.
IV.5.3 Gain Margin and Phase Margin

The Bode stability criterion states that the maximum value of the controller gain that can be chosen
for stable closed loop response is called the ultimate gain
gain must always be less than
parameter such that

. In other words, the value of controller

in order to ensure stability. The gain margin (GM) is a design


Gain margin should always be chosen as greater than one (GM>1) to ensure stability .
Gain margin acts as a safety factor for model uncertainty. Since process parameters such as gain,
time constant and dead time can never be estimated exactly, a safety factor of magnitude more than
one is necessary for stable operation. For relatively well modeled processes, a low safety factor will
be acceptable whereas poorly modeled processes need higher safety factors. For an example, let us
choose GM=2 for the process we have discussed above (eq. IV.71), the design value of the controller
gain is
; suppose there exists a modeling error of 50% in estimating the dead
time of the process and the true value of the dead time is 0.45 instead of 0.3, then the revised value
of crossover frequency is

, and the corresponding

which is still higher than the designed value

. The system is still stable despite the error by 50% we made in estimation of dead time
of the process.
Phase margin is another safety factor which is used for controller design. Here we are interested to
compute a frequency

that satisfies the following expression,


is called phase margin (PM) and it is the extra phase lag needed to destabilize a system. For an
example, let us choose

can be calculated from the following expression



. The gain is designed from the expression

IV.6 Problems with large dead time and/or inverse response

Feedback control systems with large dead time and/or inverse response cause immense problem for
the controller designers. A suitable method to avoid such problem(s) is the aim of the following

IV.6.1 Processes with large dead time

Dead time in a system is caused by delay in transportation of fluids, delay and/or inefficiency of
measuring device(s) and/or the actuating device(s), delay in decision making by human
controller,etc .
A large dead time yields lower value of crossover frequency which in turn reduces ultimate gain. In
order to avoid instability, as deadtime increases the value of controller gain should be lowered to
ensure stability; however this leads to sluggish response.
IV.6.1.1 Pad Approximation
Dead time transfer function of a process can be expanded with Taylor series and truncated with
first/second order terms as follows

as first order approximation or


as second order approximation. This is known as Pad approximation. Nevertheless, it should also be
noted that Pad approximation leads to zero in the system, which in turn could be problematic.