SRI harnesses Japan’s latest supercomputer for molecular-level rubber development

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Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI) has become one of the first industrial sector users to access the world’s most powerful computer, the new ‘exascale’ Fugaku supercomputer in Japan. SRI says it is using the high-performance computer, which is named after Mount Fuji, to expand its materials simulation capabilities at the smallest particle level, which it hopes will support the development of longer-lasting vehicle tires.

The company’s engineers previously used Japan’s K supercomputer to launch its 4D NANO Design process, which it says led to a step change in the performance of its subsidiary Falken’s tire range. The powerful Fugaku supercomputer – which has up to 100 times the application performance of its predecessor and is capable of performing approximately 442 quadrillion calculations per second – will, SRI says, bring further advancements. For example, its capabilities will be used to support the chemistry progress needed for next-generation efficient, durable ‘smart tires’.

One key application of Fugaku will be to advance SRI’s Performance Sustaining Technology (PST), which is intended to prevent the decline in tire performance that occurs over time due to wear and tear, thereby allowing tires to maintain like-new performance for longer. One of the major challenges in developing this technology is that it requires a precise understanding of the chemical changes occurring within rubber at the molecular level during tire usage so that these chemical changes can be controlled. With the Fugaku supercomputer, SRI and Falken are working to advance rubber materials simulation technology to accurately simulate not only molecular behavior but also the actual chemical changes.

“As we look to the near future, the role of tires will change. With more autonomy and connectivity, tires will be smarter, responding to scenarios and changing conditions with less input from the driver,” said Dr Bernd Löwenhaupt, managing director, Sumitomo Rubber Europe. “They will also need to perform over a longer lifespan. Fugaku provides a crucial tool for us to deliver those attributes and continue to be a leader in advanced rubber technology.”

Access to the supercomputer and its 158,976 central processing units (CPU) has, until now, been reserved for scientific research. SRI is one of the first corporate users of the machine.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he is responsible for content across UKI Media & Events' portfolio of websites while also writing for the company's print titles.

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