Nonlinear multicriteria optimization and robust optimality
Dennis, John E., Jr.
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation attempts to address two important problems in systems engineering, namely, multicriteria optimization and robustness optimization. In fields ranging from engineering to the social sciences designers are very often required to make decisions that attempt to optimize several criteria or objectives at once. Mathematically this amounts to finding the Pareto optimal set of points for these constrained multiple criteria optimization problems which happen to be nonlinear in many realistic situations, particularly in engineering design. Traditional techniques for nonlinear multicriteria optimization suffer from various drawbacks. The popular method of minimizing weighted sums of the multiple objectives suffers from the deficiency that choosing an even spread of 'weights' does not yield an even spread of points on the Pareto surface and further this spread is often quite sensitive to the relative scales of the functions. A continuation/homotopy based strategy for tracing out the Pareto curve tries to make up for this deficiency, but unfortunately requires exact second derivative information and further cannot be applied to problems with more than two objectives in general. Another technique, goal programming, requires prior knowledge of feasible goals which may not be easily available for more than two objectives. Normal-Boundary Intersection (NBI), a new technique introduced in this dissertation, overcomes all of the difficulties inherent in the existing techniques by introducing a better parametrization of the Pareto set. It is rigorously proved that NBI is completely independent of the relative scales of the functions and is quite successful in producing an evenly distributed set of points on the Pareto set given an evenly distributed set of 'NBI parameters' (comparable to the 'weights' in minimizing weighted sums of objectives). Further, this method can easily handle more than two objectives while retaining the computational efficiency of continuation-type algorithms, which is an improvement over homotopy techniques for tracing the trade-off curve. Various aspects of NBI including computational issues and its relationships with minimizing convex combinations and goal programming are discussed in this dissertation. Finally some case studies from engineering disciplines are performed using NBI. The other facet of this dissertation deals with robustness optimization, a concept useful in quantifying the stability of an optimum in the face of random fluctuations in the design variables. This robustness optimization problem is presented as an application of multicriteria optimization since it essentially involves the simultaneous minimization of two criteria, the objective function value at a point and the dispersion in the function values in a neighborhood of the point. Moreover, a formulation of the robustness optimization problem is presented so that it fits the framework of constrained, nonlinear optimization problems, which is an improvement on existing formulations that deal with either unconstrained nonlinear formulations or constrained linear formulations.
Mathematics; System science; Operations research