For a complex industrial system, its multivariable and nonlinear nature generally make it very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain an accurate model, especially when the model structure is unknown. The control of this class of complex systems is difficult to handle by the traditional controller designs around their operating points. This paper, however, explores the concepts of controller-driven model and virtual unmodeled dynamics to propose a new design framework. The design consists of two controllers with distinct functions. First, using input and output data, a self-tuning controller is constructed based on a linear controller-driven model. Then the output signals of the controller-driven model are compared with the true outputs of the system to produce so-called virtual unmodeled dynamics. Based on the compensator of the virtual unmodeled dynamics, the second controller based on a nonlinear controller-driven model is proposed. Those two controllers are integrated by an adaptive switching control algorithm to take advantage of their complementary features: one offers stabilization function and another provides improved performance. The conditions on the stability and convergence of the closed-loop system are analyzed. Both simulation and experimental tests on a heavily coupled nonlinear twin-tank system are carried out to confirm the effectiveness of the proposed method.
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