Of Micelles and Machines: HPC Simulations Transform Everyday Household Products

By Jan Zverina

July 22, 2014

Have you ever dropped your brand new razor or a full bottle of hand soap on a tiled bathroom floor and wondered why it didn’t simply shatter into a dozen pieces or split apart and create a gooey mess? Maybe next time that happens, you’ll thank computer modeling and simulations, not just your lucky stars.

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 8.52.58 AM“What most people don’t know, is behind each one of those everyday mishaps, as well as the routine use of all those household products that help get us through each day, is an amazing amount of science, engineering, and high-performance computing,” said Tom Lange, Director of R&D, Modeling & Simulation for the Procter & Gamble Company (P&G), who addressed attendees at XSEDE14, this year’s conference of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) program in Atlanta this month.

Lange’s responsibilities at P&G – founded 177 years ago and now doing almost $85 billion annually in global sales – spans consumer modeling; computational chemistry and biology; computer-aided engineering in structures, fluids, chemicals and controls; and production system throughput and reliability. From studying the micelles, or an aggregate of molecules in a solution such as detergents, to modeling the stratum corneum to better understand the physical properties of skin, Lange has spent his 36-year career modeling and simulating product formulations as well as their packaging. He and his colleagues have even optimized how these products are mass-produced – often to the tune of one billion items in just a matter of days – enabling P&G to achieve volumes that dwarf those of automobiles or even now-ubiquitous electronic devices such as laptops and mobile phones.

Lange has studied aspects of these household products that most of us simply take for granted: exactly how household cleaners must remove stains while protecting the fabric as well as one’s skin, how the varied sizes of infants directly correlate to fit from a diaper – and its urine leakage risk. He and his team at P&G have been using various XSEDE resources and expertise, such as those at the Ohio Supercomputer Center and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), in addition to other resources including the Department of Energy’s national labs at Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Sandia to help solve a wide range of challenges, primarily by jointly developing detailed simulations that predict performance, durability, and other metrics long before these consumer products hit the store shelves.

“High-performance computing is the theme that made all of this possible,” Lange told XSEDE14 attendees, noting that while advances during the last decade alone have enabled much more accurate simulations demanded by what he calls “the relentless pursuit of realism.” As a society, he noted, we have been on this learning curve for at least the last 60 years or more.

“I like to say that computing and modeling and simulation have changed science and engineering the way aviation changed travel,” Lange said, noting that at some point predictive modeling became an integral part of engineering and analysis replacing the crash-testing expensive prototypes – be it an aircraft or a new line of aerosol cans –demonstrations that bore no resemblance to the final production versions in the first place.

“I’m in the business of shaping decisions,” Lange said. “I make money with modeling and simulations, by either doing something, or not doing something that we would have done by experiment. I would much rather do stuff that tells you those things before they happen, not after.” 

Contradictions and Scale

From an engineering perspective, many consumers may still think that everyday consumable goods such as detergents or diapers are ‘low tech’, when in fact the challenges faced by scientists and engineers working on P&G’s extensive product portfolio are in principle similar to those in rocket science. “High tech is not just for rockets, airplanes, cars, drugs, or smart phones” said Lange.

Computer-generated images from kinematic simulations measuring joint and muscle activity in the design of a laundry detergent bottle. Image courtesy of Tom Lange, P&G.
Computer-generated images from kinematic simulations measuring joint and muscle activity in the design of a laundry detergent bottle. Image courtesy of Tom Lange, P&G.

In describing P&G’s product development challenges as ‘contradictions and scale’, Lange explained that often, even the most common household product must have characteristics that are scientifically opposed to each other to work as flawlessly and effectively as possible. That’s where HPC resources and expertise come in, by making it possible to model many thousands of iterations of a single product characteristic with less time and less cost, but with consistent results – and no unpleasant surprises for consumers.

“Paper towels must be absorbent, but be very strong when wet,” he said. “Diapers need to be absorbent, but not leak and fit and comfort babies like cloth. Laundry treatments need to remove stains but protect fabrics, yet be concentrated and still be easy to use. Containers should never leak, but open easily. When dropped, they shouldn’t break, but they should use a bare minimum of plastic that also recycles well. Most importantly, all these products must represent a good value for improving daily life, not just affordable for use once in a while.”

As for scale, using computational science to improve products is also done to meet the demands of high-volume production. Taken together, contradiction and scale require a systematic process: first, a business challenge must be translated into a science challenge and expressed in science equations. Then all relevant data must be collected, such as material properties, production capabilities, even consumer ratings. Then simulations must be conducted and then effectively communicated at a non-expert level before final decisions are made and actual output begins.

Such computational modeling is used across the entire product spectrum and involves computer-aided engineering (CAE) skills in just about every area. For example, kinetic simulations are done to measure muscle activity and joint angles of the arm and hand when a person lifts a full jug of laundry detergent and twists off the measuring cap time after time. Others focus on how to produce billions of diapers each year that are absorbent, comfortable, and leak-proof. Many of these simulations require cross-disciplinary CAE skills.

“Here’s one – free surface flow on and through a compressible, partially saturated porous media with non-Newtonian behavior. That’s a kid going potty in his diaper,” said Lange.

Looking Ahead

A key challenge for companies such as P&G will be to ensure that computational analysis is eventually democratized, Lange told XSEDE participants. “High-performance computing and modeling and simulation skills need to be a base for all scientists and engineers. We need to be replacing the hand calculations of our education – most of them but not all of them – with computation and calculation.”

Another challenge will be for companies to develop an archive of its many thousands of simulations, and to be able to have the capability to reproduce an analysis done maybe five years ago by another researcher, said Lange. “We need a ‘library science’ to emerge for how we record and manage our simulations.”

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Russian and American Scientists Achieve 50% Increase in Data Transmission Speed

September 20, 2018

As high-performance computing becomes increasingly data-intensive and the demand for shorter turnaround times grows, data transfer speed becomes an ever more important bottleneck. Now, in an article published in IEEE Tra Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

IBM to Brand Rescale’s HPC-in-Cloud Platform

September 20, 2018

HPC (or big compute)-in-the-cloud platform provider Rescale has formalized the work it’s been doing in partnership with public cloud vendors by announcing its Powered by Rescale program – with IBM as its first named Read more…

By Doug Black

Democratization of HPC Part 1: Simulation Sheds Light on Building Dispute

September 20, 2018

This is the first of three articles demonstrating the growing acceptance of High Performance Computing especially in new user communities and application areas. Major reasons for this trend are the ongoing improvements i Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Clouds Over the Ocean – a Healthcare Perspective

Advances in precision medicine, genomics, and imaging; the widespread adoption of electronic health records; and the proliferation of medical Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile devices are resulting in an explosion of structured and unstructured healthcare-related data. Read more…

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Gordon Bell Prize used Summit in their work. That’s impres Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Accelerates AI Inference in the Datacenter with T4 GPU

September 14, 2018

Nvidia is upping its game for AI inference in the datacenter with a new platform consisting of an inference accelerator chip--the new Turing-based Tesla T4 GPU- Read more…

By George Leopold

DeepSense Combines HPC and AI to Bolster Canada’s Ocean Economy

September 13, 2018

We often hear scientists say that we know less than 10 percent of the life of the oceans. This week, IBM and a group of Canadian industry and government partner Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Rigetti (and Others) Pursuit of Quantum Advantage

September 11, 2018

Remember ‘quantum supremacy’, the much-touted but little-loved idea that the age of quantum computing would be signaled when quantum computers could tackle Read more…

By John Russell

How FPGAs Accelerate Financial Services Workloads

September 11, 2018

While FSI companies are unlikely, for competitive reasons, to disclose their FPGA strategies, James Reinders offers insights into the case for FPGAs as accelerators for FSI by discussing performance, power, size, latency, jitter and inline processing. Read more…

By James Reinders

Update from Gregory Kurtzer on Singularity’s Push into FS and the Enterprise

September 11, 2018

Container technology is hardly new but it has undergone rapid evolution in the HPC space in recent years to accommodate traditional science workloads and HPC systems requirements. While Docker containers continue to dominate in the enterprise, other variants are becoming important and one alternative with distinctly HPC roots – Singularity – is making an enterprise push targeting advanced scale workload inclusive of HPC. Read more…

By John Russell

At HPC on Wall Street: AI-as-a-Service Accelerates AI Journeys

September 10, 2018

AIaaS – artificial intelligence-as-a-service – is the technology discipline that eases enterprise entry into the mysteries of the AI journey while lowering Read more…

By Doug Black

TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

July 30, 2018

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has won the next NSF-funded big supercomputer beating out rivals including the National Center for Supercomputing Ap Read more…

By John Russell

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Requiem for a Phi: Knights Landing Discontinued

July 25, 2018

On Monday, Intel made public its end of life strategy for the Knights Landing "KNL" Phi product set. The announcement makes official what has already been wide Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

By John Russell

AMD’s EPYC Road to Redemption in Six Slides

June 21, 2018

A year ago AMD returned to the server market with its EPYC processor line. The earth didn’t tremble but folks took notice. People remember the Opteron fondly Read more…

By John Russell

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Pledges First Commercial Nervana Product ‘Spring Crest’ in 2019

May 24, 2018

At its AI developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel embraced a holistic approach to AI and showed off a broad AI portfolio that includes Xeon processors, Movidius technologies, FPGAs and Intel’s Nervana Neural Network Processors (NNPs), based on the technology it acquired in 2016. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GPUs Power Five of World’s Top Seven Supercomputers

June 25, 2018

The top 10 echelon of the newly minted Top500 list boasts three powerful new systems with one common engine: the Nvidia Volta V100 general-purpose graphics proc Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This