An EU report has investigated the significance of supercomputers for the competitiveness of companies. And the authors of the report are in no doubt: If a company wants to get ahead of its competitors, it needs to calculate more quickly than them.

This is where SDU’s supercomputer ABACUS 2.0 comes into the picture, since it is not standing in SDU’s basement only to help researchers get an overview of large amounts of data, but also plays a significant role for an increasing number of companies who purchase so-called running time on the supercomputer. In this way, ABACUS 2.0 meets the Faculty of Science’s goal of entering into more collaborations with companies. And ABACUS 2.0 lives up to the companies’ expectations. That is to say, the supercomputer delivers the results which can increase their competitive ability.

The tyre producer Continental is a good example. The German company has worked with Associate Professor and specialist in computer simulations and polymer materials Carsten Svaneborg for the last three years, and they have just extended the collaboration by three more years. In December, the news was greeted with great joy at FKF and particularly by Carsten Svaneborg, of course, who now has funding to add a PhD to the project.

ABACUS 2.0 tests rubber molecules

Continental need to improve their rubber formula and increase the non-slip capacity in things like winter tyres.

– You might not think it, but tyres are ridiculously complex products. The development of tyres requires knowledge about how rubber molecules behave. Until now, Continental’s development department has taken thousands of material samples and conducted just as many tests. However, it is a lengthy and resource-heavy method, explains Carsten Svaneborg and continues:

– We have worked on understanding how polymer materials like rubber work. There are a large number of technical challenges. For instance, realistic polymer molecules are enormous. We are interested in understanding viscoelastic material characteristics, but you need more than ten molecules to make up the material. We need to simulate hundreds of thousands of molecules before we can hope to see any material characteristics. Therefore, we’ve invented a lot of tricks and techniques to deal with these challenges. We can now build model rubber materials on ABACUS 2.0 and simulate stretching them, just like you do when you stretch an elastic band and can feel how elastic it is. From these simulations, Continental can find out how their materials work at a molecular level, says Carsten Svaneborg.

He explains that the results are about to be published in a number of articles, and he is of course looking forward to working further on Continental’s challenges over the next three years. In particular, investigating ways of improving the tyre material’s non-slip capacity. These investigations will save Continental a considerable amount of euros in development costs. In addition, the project is contributing to fundamental research and is working with a problem that everyone can easily relate to: better and safer tyres.

Facts about Continental

Continental, which was established as a rubber factory in 1871 in Hannover, made a profit of € 2.7 billion in 2015; it employs 164,000 people in 200 factories in 45 countries. Continental is among the world’s five largest tyre producers. Competitors include prominent names such as Bridgestone, Michelin, Pirelli and Goodyear.

However, it is a well-known Danish company that snatches the title of the world’s largest tyre producer: LEGO produces no less than 360 million tyres per year, albeit in miniature.

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