This paper provides an overview of sustainable design and synthesis of energy systems. We review recent progress and present major research challenges of the superstructure optimization based approach in terms of: (1) systematic generation of comprehensive process superstructures; (2) building optimization models that integrate techno-economic assessment with life cycle sustainability analysis while addressing uncertainty issues; (3) efficient computational algorithms for solving the resulting mixed-integer nonlinear optimization problems. Process integration and process intensification are briefly outlined as alternative approaches to sustainable design and synthesis of energy systems. This paper identifies several future research directions for sustainable design of energy systems, such as broadening the scope of sustainable design with a consequential perspective, handling uncertainties using multi-stage robust optimization techniques, and integrating standalone energy systems through multi-scale optimization.
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