One of the World’s Fastest Supercomputers Is Helping Create Sustainable Tires


While the main focus when it comes to sustainable mobility is on clean energy sources, other components are important too and can contribute a great deal to a reduced impact on the environment. In this case, we’re talking about tires – Continental is committed to making them more sustainable, with the help of Europe’s most famous supercomputer.

You can’t think of safety when driving, without considering grip. Tire grip is essential, but it’s not easy on the environment. During acceleration or braking, wear particles from the tire tread and the surface of the road are released. Continental, one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world, wants to minimize the impact of these particles, by upgrading tire design. In fact, it plans to switch to 100% sustainable materials for its tires, by 2050.

It might sound straightforward, but the research process based on simulations of the behavior of complex polymer structures actually takes a lot of time and energy, which also increases costs. This is where a supercomputer can help. And not just any supercomputer, but the European Union’s famous Joliot-Curie.

Located at CEA’s (The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) Very Large Computing Center (TGCC) in Bruyeres-le-Chatel, France, the Joliot-Curie is capable of simulating remarkably large and complex sets of data. With a processing speed of 9.4 petaflops and the ability to perform 1,000 trillion calculations per second, it’s known as one of the fastest supercomputers in Europe.

Now, it will use its powers to help Continental perform extensive research on the decomposition of rubber polymers. Together with the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) and the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon in France, the tire manufacturer won a research grant through the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) initiative. The grant is worth 43 million – not dollars or any other currency, but hours of supercomputer time. This is how much time the partners will get from the Joliot-Curie.

The project was launched several years ago, but it is only now, with the help of this supercomputer, that it will be able to take polymer simulations to the next level, which will result in the development of innovative, sustainable materials for future tires.