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Five Unconventional Ways Supercomputers are Used: Part 1

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Supercomputers power a diverse array of scientific research, including calculating the airflow of aircrafts, simulating the earth’s climate, producing data for hurricane predictions to help save communities, providing managers with the tools to make smarter production decisions . . . the possibilities are endless.

Enough about the obvious though. In this first of an ongoing series of posts, I’d like to introduce you to some of the more unexpected ways supercomputers are having an impact on our lives.  Believe me, you may be surprised.

#1: Ice Cream

A team of scientists are using fluid dynamic applications to study the behavior of “soft matter,” which incorporates any material considered soft, including ice cream. That’s right, ice cream. And supercomputers are making it even tastier. Using the lattice Boltzmann method and the parallel computing code “Ludwig,” this group was able to accurately capture the physics of systems such as mixture, suspensions and liquid crystals. Understanding the processes by which these liquid mixtures separate, scientists will be able to better control the way phase separation occurs, thus providing smoother ice cream. Don’t mind me while I go dig into my freezer for a delicious (and smoother) Talenti salted caramel gelato.

#2 Major League Baseball

As most of us know, baseball is a numbers game. For all you “stat geeks” out there, imagine having the power of a supercomputer to analyze games and the seemingly endless troves of statistical data each and every game generates!  Well, now you can with the help of graph analytics. As seen in the movie “Moneyball,” Billy Beane uses statistics to determine who the Oakland A’s would recruit and who would play in a particular game. Similarly, you could sit down minute after minute, hour after hour, calculating every pitch, run, hit, walk, strike . . . OR get a supercomputing system such as the YarcData® Urika® appliance which can help you make educated decisions based on past data within minutes. Not sure about you, but I choose the latter. Now, let’s play ball!

#3 Dirty Diapers

For years, Dow Chemical has helped drive production of innovative products by combining the power of science and technology.  In this example, Dow leveraged the power of a Cray-2 supercomputer to simulate how fast a diaper soaks up wetness. The purpose was to understand fluid flow and absorption by the superabsorbent Drytech® particles in baby diapers. Instead of creating one design after the next, Dow modeled the flow of liquid through the diaper to save not only waste (no pun intended) but also time.

#4 Golf Clubs

Ping Inc. designed golf clubs on a Cray supercomputer to help eliminate weak or ineffective designs before they made actual prototypes. Using finite element analysis (FEA) techniques, they were able to save time and money with virtual simulations versus creating expensive and time-consuming physical prototyping.  Physical prototyping would have involved molding an actual club (which takes about 3-4 weeks), test it using robotic golfers, and then remold once they found out it wasn’t up to par. Since they opted to forego physical prototyping, I’m sure they all had some more time to practice their own swings with the new and improved clubs.

#5 Pringles

Who knew the design of the always consistent and perfectly shaped Pringles potato chip could cause such an issue in the manufacturing department? According to TechNewsWorld, the design of the chip caused them to fly off the manufacturing line wasting thousands of chips in production. Then owner Procter & Gamble claimed the chip was not aerodynamic enough so they enlisted supercomputing resources and created a simulation that would help redesign the potato chip. Now with an aerodynamically sound potato chip (can you tell the difference?), we can all go back to enjoying this delicious snack.

Stay tuned for more unconventional ways supercomputers are used and in the interim, check out YarcData’s blog page for more surprising use cases.

Sia Fotes, Marketing Specialist 

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