A Powerful Duo; HPC and Graphene Paving the Way for Cutting-Edge Sports Gear Design

September 21, 2021

Designing high-performance products involves a multidisciplinary approach from all branches of engineering and technology. An early decision in the design cycle, after defining the fit, form, and function of a product is material selection.  In this blog post, we discuss the material science behind graphene in the context of HPC.

Material selection involves an understanding of:

  • Chemistry
  • Continuum mechanics
  • Rheology of fluids
  • The art of customization
  • Manipulating the very fabric of both solids and fluids to achieve a required performance goal

High-performance computing (HPC) is at the forefront of developing new classes of materials and understanding how their unique properties can be applied in the design and commercialization of new products or improvement of existing products.

HPC helps material scientists develop new materials through high-performance computer simulation of manufacturing processes to optimize process parameters, molecular dynamics, and system-level performance optimization. One of the most talked-about modern materials used in all branches of engineering is graphene

graphene material

Graphene is an atomic-scale hexagonal lattice made of carbon atoms

What is graphene, and what’s all the hype? 

Graphene, dubbed the future of tech, is an atom-thick hexagonal sheet of carbon atoms. Layering the sheets on top of each other is the process of creating a graphitic structure.

You may recognize graphite as being the material used in pencil lead. Given the minute dimensions of a carbon atom itself, it takes roughly 3 million graphene layers to build a 1mm thick graphite sheet. 

Graphene is the strongest material ever tested

Structurally, graphene is stronger than diamond but exhibits elasticity properties that rival those of elastomeric rubbers at a fraction of their weight. Aside from its strength, graphene possesses other outstanding properties.

Graphene’s electrons are 100x more mobile than the electrons of silicone; it spreads heat through conduction 2x better than diamond and is impervious to even the smallest atom, helium. 

A cutting-edge material in sports equipment

Given graphene’s outstanding mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties, it is no surprise that it has been widely used in the sports equipment industry in recent years. Design engineers of top athletic equipment use cutting-edge technology to design gear that better fits their customers’ needs.

Two exciting applications of graphene are ultralight tennis racquet frames and high-performance golf balls

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Graphene used in tennis racquets

HEAD, one of the early adopters of graphene, first used graphene in their YouTek Speed series tennis racquets in 2013 to better balance their racquet frames. HEAD now regularly uses graphene in their racquets featuring their Graphene 360+ technology.

The use of graphene enables a redistribution of weight from the racquet shaft to the grip and head.  This redistribution allows the tennis player to generate more kinetic energy and impart a higher velocity to the hit tennis ball.

HEAD Graphene 360+ technology

Graphene used in golf balls

Infusing graphene in the outer layer of golf balls adds both strength and flexibility to the plastic outer layer. Because of the outer layer’s improved strength and flexibility, the golf ball can be reduced in size. The reduction in size results in a larger soft inner core making the ball softer and more flexible. A softer golf ball gives the player more control and is also more forgiving as it tends to go straight and maintain speed even if inaccurately hit.

The computer-aided design (CAD) details and material models used to design a perfect golf ball are, in part, due to the unprecedented advances in parallel processing powered by the cloud.

The progression of finite element analysis on the stress propagation in a graphene-infused golf ball using COMSOL.

The progression of finite element analysis on the stress propagation in a graphene-infused golf ball using COMSOL.

Graphene is used in gear for other competitive sports such as surfing, fishing, table tennis, and leisure activities such as hiking

  • Fishing rods made with graphene-doped materials are stronger and more flexible than ever
  • Surfboards and paddles are lighter and stronger
  • Graphene-enhanced rubber outsoles for training shoes allow track and field athletes to perform better 

Computer simulation and analysis are widely used to evaluate the effect material selection has on the performance of the design

Simulation software such as GENESIS and Visual Molecular Dynamics have parallel computation processing capabilities and are used widely to manipulate macromolecules. COMSOL and Lumerical used in a parallel computing environment allow teams of engineers and scientists to evaluate superconductivity and its application in semiconductors. Ansys explicit dynamics and MEMS simulations help design sensors by capturing design details that cannot be modeled with desktop computers. 

HPC has and continues to play an important role in developing new materials and evaluating them using virtual environments.  

Disclaimer: We are not affiliated, associated with, or in any way represent HEAD.