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Physical Chemistry

BASF takes to supercomputing

German firm turns to Hewlett Packard Enterprise to accelerate chemical research

by Alex Scott
March 20, 2017

Credit: BASF
BASF expects its new supercomputer to speed up research at its Ludwigshafen, Germany, headquarters.

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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Comments
Dan Doe, Key Polymer corp. (March 22, 2017 2:06 PM)
Many chemists would look forward to hearing best practice examples with new and safer catalyst technology to replace dimethyl-/dibutyl- tin catalysts currently on many toxic lists for toys and consumer product uses. Replacing faster dialkyl tin catalysts with a safer catalyst for hydrolysis-condensation reactions in silicone and polyurethane polymers at ambient conditions would be great. Having a supercomputer requires much more to offer a new technology that is safer.
Xin Shen (March 23, 2017 12:08 AM)
I am a chemical engineering master student. I used supercomputer to simulate adsorption, membrane process and optimize process controllers.
Mr Michael Thomas Deans MA MSc (March 23, 2017 2:31 AM)
Hewlett-Packard might achieve better computing power by emulating the 'minion' DNA-protein complex I've established as 'chip in the brain' (see 'Science Uncoiled', Melrose Press) in hardware or software. BASF programmers could try the latter approach and chemists adopt my substitution of protons for electrons in chemical theory. Biological simplicity will win in the end.

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