Supercomputer grant aiding Continental’s research into tyre & road wear particles
Together with the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) and the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon in France, tyre maker Continental has received a grant worth 43 million core hours of supercomputer time. This grant comes through a Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) initiative and will speed up and expand the partners’ research into the decomposition of rubber polymers, a key aspect of the joint research they’ve conducted on tyre and road wear particles since 2014.
Continental notes that simulating the behaviour of complex polymer structures is a very time-consuming process. It adds that thanks to the grant, the partners will now be able to perform polymer simulations in greater depth and on a broader scale.
“With the help of the supercomputer, we can for the first time perform comprehensive simulations on molecular level,” shares Dr Andreas Topp, head of Materials, Process Development and Industrialisation within Continental’s Tires business area. “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 provides access to the 9.4 petaflops Joliot-Curie supercomputer at the CEA’s Very Large Computing Center (TGCC) in Bruyères-le-Châtel, France. Performing 1,000 trillion calculations per second, it is one of the fastest supercomputers in the European Union.
Technologically demanding processes
A question mark still hangs over many issues pertaining to tyre and road wear particles. “In recent years, we have systematically invested in the research and development of new, sustainable production processes as well as materials to make future tyres even more energy-efficient and sustainable. Such processes are technologically very demanding and require a fundamental understanding of the tyre material at various levels,” says Dr Peter Zmolek, head of Materials Technology Research and Development within Continental’s Tires business.
“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,” Zmolek adds. “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.”
A key role for a tyre is to provide optimal grip in any situation. While grip means safer acceleration and braking, the transmission of power during the process results in wear particles that are made from a combination of tyre tread rubber and the road surface. Continental aims to minimise the effect of tyre and road wear particles on the environment through improved tyre design. It describes the “continuous improvement of mileage and wear rate without compromising on safety” as an important criterion in its tyre development programme.