Tohoku University and NEC Collaborate to Accelerate the Development of Composite Materials for Aircraft

TOKYO, Jul 1, 2020 – (JCN Newswire) – Tohoku University Graduate School of Engineering, Graduate School of Information Sciences, and NEC Corporation today announced the start of research and development of a materials integration system utilizing NEC’s vector supercomputer SX-Aurora TSUBASA to accelerate the development of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP)(1) for aircraft. This R&D is being conducted under the Cross-ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program, a national project led by the Cabinet Office, Government of Japan, aiming to reduce the development costs, manufacturing costs, and development period of composite materials for next-generation aircraft by up to 50% when compared with conventional methods.

In the field of composite materials for aircraft, Japan has produced a wide range of materials with excellent properties. However, a great deal of time and expense has been required to develop them. Currently, digitalization is advancing worldwide, and there is a need to shorten the delivery time of products to market. Therefore, reducing development costs and the duration of development is an urgent issue.

In order to efficiently develop high-performance composite materials in a short period of time, strategic research and development that combines a variety of academic knowledge, such as materials science and information sciences, is required, rather than just traditional methods that depend on conventional experiments and expertise.

The aim of this R&D is to create an integrated system capable of digitally developing CFRP for aircraft structures using simulation tools developed by Tohoku University and NEC’s SX-Aurora TSUBASA vector supercomputer.

Specifically, by implementing simulation codes on a supercomputer that analyzes mechanical responses ranging from as small as the molecular level to the aircraft wing and fuselage, the processes of material selection, design, and others can be performed at high speed and at multiple scales(2). By utilizing this system as an integrated simulation platform, tailor-made material development becomes possible to more effectively meet the demands of aircraft manufacturers.

R&D Overview

1. Development of a multiscale simulation platform (Professor Tomonaga Okabe, Graduate School of Engineering, Tohoku University)

Utilizing outputs from scientific research in composite materials, Tohoku University has already developed a variety of simulation tools for CFRP, together with companies participating in Japan’s Cross-ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program. The integrated systems developed in this R&D will be applied to a wide range of future vehicles, in addition to aircrafts.

2. Application of high-performance computing technology (Professor Hiroaki Kobayashi, Graduate School of Information Sciences, Tohoku University)

Simulation programs for materials integration systems will be vectorized and parallelized for the SX-Aurora TSUBASA vector supercomputer in order to significantly reduce the execution times of the simulation programs. This research emphasizes cooperation with participating companies in order to accelerate programs.

3. System construction using supercomputer (NEC)

The SX-Aurora TSUBASA supercomputer consists of vector engines that perform high performance simulation programs and a vector host that performs a wide variety of processes. This R&D utilizes NEC’s supercomputer technologies and system construction know-how to systematize simulation programs with the SX-Aurora TSUBASA supercomputer. The materials integration system will combine both data science and optimal material design.

(1) Carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP):
Composite materials of carbon fiber and plastic that are light weight, durable, and largely utilized for aircraft wing and fuselage
(2) Multiscale analysis:
A method for simultaneous analysis of solids and structures with different scales

Tohoku University Profile

Since its founding in 1907, Tohoku University has been consistently ranked among the top academic institutions in Japan. Its research achievements and contributions, coupled with its wide network of collaborative partners, led to it being one of the first institutions to be conferred the status of a Designated National University by the Japanese government in 2017. It currently ranks number one on Times Higher Education’s 2020 list of Japanese universities.

Among the inventions born at Tohoku University are the split-anode magnetron used in microwave ovens, the steel-wire recorder and the Yagi-Uda antenna. It has also more recently pioneered research in next-generation medicine and disaster science. Find out more at: new window

About NEC Corporation

NEC Corporation has established itself as a leader in the integration of IT and network technologies while promoting the brand statement of “Orchestrating a brighter world.” NEC enables businesses and communities to adapt to rapid changes taking place in both society and the market as it provides for the social values of safety, security, fairness and efficiency to promote a more sustainable world where everyone has the chance to reach their full potential. For more information, visit NEC at

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