German automotive parts manufacturer Continental, the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) and France-based École Normale Supérieure de Lyon have received a grant worth 43 million core hours of supercomputer time for their joint basic research project, which aims to drive fundamental understanding of tyre and road wear particles. Since its establishment in 2014, the project’s goal is to learn more about the decomposition of rubber polymers to better understand the wear behaviour of tyres, according to Continental, adding that the associated simulations of the behaviour of complex polymer structures are very time-consuming. For this reason, the project partners applied for the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) initiative. With the digital computing power granted, they now have the opportunity to perform polymer simulations in greater depth and on a broader scale.
Dr Andreas Topp, Head of Materials, Process Development and Industrialisation of the Tyres business area at Continental, commented: “With the help of the supercomputer, we can for the first time perform comprehensive simulations on molecular level. The results of this basic research will contribute to a more complete understanding of the formation of tyre and road wear particles, and enable us to design the materials we use for tyre construction even more sustainably in the future.”
The support granted comes in the form of access to the 9.4 petaflops Joliot-Curie supercomputer at the CEA’s Very Large Computing Center (TGCC) in Bruyères-le-Châtel, France. With its performance of 1,000 trillion calculations/second, it is one of EUs fastest supercomputers.
Many issues about tyre and road wear particles are still unresolved, according to Dr Peter Zmolek, Head of Materials Technology Research and Development of the Tyres business area at Continental. “Our joint research project combines state-of-the-art calculation methods and innovative experimental approaches that give us a comprehensive understanding of the behaviour of currently used materials. This technical knowledge is an important reference point, especially when evaluating new materials in terms of their ability to further reduce rolling resistance and tyre wear, as well as providing a fundamental understanding of how to recycle polymer chains from end-of-life tyres,” he said.
Optimum grip in any traffic situation is a key function of tyres. Grip enables safety, for example when accelerating and braking. The transmission of power during this process results in combined wear particles from the material of the tire tread and the road surface. Continental said that it aims to minimise the effect of tyre and road wear particles on the environment by improved tyre design. Continuous improvement of mileage and wear rate without compromising safety is therefore an important criterion in Continental’s tyre development.