HANOVER, Germany—Continental A.G. and universities in Denmark and France have been awarded a grant worth 43 million core hours of supercomputer time for basic research they're conducting on tire and road-wear particles (TRWP).
The project, launched in 2014 by Conti and the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) and Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon in France, aims to drive "fundamental understanding of tire and road wear particles," Conti said.
TRWPs are a mixture of tire tread material and road pavement material generated by the friction between tires and the road surface.
The study's objective is to learn more about the decomposition of rubber polymers to help improve the understanding of the wear behavior of tires and involves simulating the behavior of complex polymer structures.
The support comes in the form of access to the 9.4 petaflops Joliot-Curie supercomputer at the very large computing center at the Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission in Bruyeres-le-Chatel, France.
According to Conti, the machine is one of the fastest supercomputers in the European Union, with a performance of 1,000 trillion calculations per second,
"With the help of the supercomputer, we can for the first time perform comprehensive simulations on a molecular level," according to Andreas Topp, head of materials, process development and industrialization of Conti's tire business area.
The results of the basic research will contribute to a more complete understanding of the formation of tire and road-wear particles, Topp said, noting this will enable Conti to design materials more sustainably in the future.
"We have systematically invested in ... materials to make future tires even more energy-efficient and sustainable," said Peter Zmolek, Conti's head of materials technology research and development for tires.
The process, however, is technologically very demanding and requires a fundamental understanding of the tire material at various levels, he added.
The joint research, Zmolek said, will help Conti evaluate new materials in terms of their rolling resistance and wear while providing an understanding of how to recycle polymer chains from waste tires.
Conti also is part of industrywide research into TRWP through its membership in the Tire Industry Project, which last year began sharing its scientific research on the matter for free online in hopes of reaching stakeholders who may have previously been discouraged by paywalls.
Conti's announcement comes just a week after German car maker Audi A.G. disclosed its research foundation is developing filters it claims can prevent TRWPs from being washed into sewer systems along with rain water.
According to the Audi Environmental Foundation GmbH, the traffic flow in Germany generates as much as 110,000 metric tons of TRWPs a year in the form of "microplastics" that can be washed by rain via runoffs and sewers into the soil, rivers and oceans.