BASF strengthens research and development capacities with a more powerful supercomputer – News


Melanie Maas-Brunner, CTO of BASF, and Stephan Schenk, product manager for high-performance computing at BASF, at the company’s new supercomputer

BASF has put a new supercomputer into operation at its Ludwigshafen site in Germany, which it says is the world’s largest for industrial chemical research. The 3 petaflop supercomputer replaces a 1.75 petaflop predecessor and offers more capacity and computing power to enable increasingly complex modeling, virtual experiments and simulations.

Melanie Maas-Brunner, CTO of BASF, said: “Digital technologies are among the most important tools to further expand our research and development capacities.”

She said that today it takes above-average computing power to identify the most promising polymer structures out of thousands of possibilities. Over the past five years, the 1.75 petaflop supercomputer has significantly reduced the development times for molecules and compounds and accelerated the time to market of new products. However, its computing power is no longer sufficient and the complexity of BASF’s research projects has increased the demands on the supercomputer.

The new supercomputer, which like its predecessor bears the name Quriosity, is about twice as fast and provides researchers with the computing power they need. At the same time, BASF plans to use cloud computing services. Maas-Brunner said the hybrid solution offers the greatest possible technical and operational flexibility.

“It allows us to handle queries that require exceptionally large amounts of computing power, as well as work on specialized tasks that our own supercomputer is not designed for.”

BASF adds that projects outside of research and development will also benefit from the new supercomputer. For example, it can help to optimize the flow dynamics of plant components in production.

The new supercomputer was manufactured by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and uses a new type of hot water cooling system that absorbs and dissipates the heat where it is generated in the supercomputer. The system reduces the energy requirement and thus the operating costs.

The 1.75 petaflop Quriosity is refurbished by HPE and more than 95% of its individual components are reused. It is expected to be dismantled by the end of the year.

Supercomputers – “enormous time savings”

BASF said that as a digital tool, supercomputers bring “huge time savings,” allowing calculations that would previously have taken about a year to be performed in a matter of days. The company deployed the former Quriosity in 2017. It completed an average of 20,000 tasks per day and was used by more than 400 employees worldwide. BASF used the supercomputer to identify molecules that could help fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The technology has not only enabled BASF to shorten development times, it has also driven new research approaches.

BASF pointed to concrete business advantages and explained that the distribution of substances and the temperature in a reactor can be simulated and the information can be used, for example, to continuously improve production. Other examples include the use of simulations to understand product composition and more accurately predict optimal ingredient combinations, and the use of molecular modeling to identify beneficial compounds with specific application benefits.