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BASF takes to supercomputing

German firm turns to Hewlett Packard Enterprise to accelerate chemical research

by Alex Scott
March 22, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 13

BASF has called on computing firm Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to develop one of the largest and fastest supercomputers for industry-oriented chemical research. To be installed at BASFs headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany, later this year, the computer will drive the digitalization of R&D, the firm says.

The custom-designed supercomputer will have a processing speed of 1 petaflop, enabling it to undertake one quadrillion operations per second. It is based on HPE’s Apollo 6000 system, in which a multitude of computing nodes can work simultaneously on complex tasks. The consulting firm IDC Research says high-end supercomputers can sell for more than $3 million.

BASF anticipates the new computer will enable it to answer difficult questions across all research areas and cut the time it takes to obtain results from several months to days. As a result, the company plans to significantly extend its use of virtual experimentation.

Examples of projects where the firm is set to benefit from using the supercomputer include more precise ­simulation of processes on catalyst surfaces and faster design of new polymers with predefined properties. It will help BASF reduce costs and time to market, the German firm says.

The computer will also open up completely new avenues of research at BASF, says Martin Brudermueller, the firm’s head of technology.

Companies in industries such as oil and gas, aerospace, life sciences, and financial services already use supercomputers for highly complex calculations and simulations. BASF expects the new supercomputer to be the most powerful in the chemical industry, but it anticipates that other companies will soon follow suit.


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