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Theory, Modeling and Simulation


ORNL conducts a broad range of theoretical research in the physical sciences with over 60 staff members and additional students, post-doctoral associates and visitors. This work is tightly integrated with experimental programs and is committed to making effective use of modern theory and advanced computation to progress core science and technology. Efforts include a full range of theory activities, ranging from basic science aimed at providing the fundamental basis for long-term solutions to our energy problems, to near-term work addressing our nation's most pressing energy and security needs. Work is highlighted by:

  • Cross-cutting capabilities/efforts impacting multiple ORNL programs and activities centered on nanoscience, physics, chemistry, materials, and neutron science
  • New theory and computational approaches to establish and enhance links with experiments
  • First principles methods based on density functional theory, quantum chemistry, classical and ab initio molecular dynamics, transport theory, many-body theory, quantum Monte Carlo, field theoretic approaches, phase field analysis, and statistical mechanics
  • Guiding understanding and providing prediction of new materials, architectures and reactions before they are realized in the experimental labs
  • Illuminating connections between experimental observations across diverse characterization techniques
  • Identifying new synthetic pathways

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Dynamic coupling drives conformational evolution of branched polymers in solutions
— The critical overlap concentration of polymer solutions, denoted c*, is one of the most important characteristic values of a polymer solution. This geometrically defined parameter is used to identify concentration regimes with different conformational characteristics.

Electronic Excitations Transform Structure of Ceramics
Ab initio molecular dynamics calculations reveal that electronic excitations induce a structural instability that transforms Y2Ti2O7, Gd2Ti2O7 and Sm2Ti2O7 with the pyrochlore crystal structure to an amorphous state.

New Atomic Force Microscope Spectroscopy Probes Local Elasticity
— Contact resonance imaging and voltage spectroscopy based on photothermal excitation were developed to explore local bias-induced phenomena. These techniques can access nanoscale elastic properties in real time during polarization switching in ferroelectric nonvolatile memories, and during ion intercalation in batteries and supercapacitors.

Review Finds Ionization Can Heal or Harm Materials
— An invited review on latest advances in ion beam modification of materials provides conclusive evidence that energy loss by energetic ions to electrons (ionization) can lead to either self-healing of radiation damage created by atomic collisions or contribute to radiation damage.

Iodine-coordinated sulfide leads to an exceptionally stable ceramic electrolyte
— Coordination of iodine atoms within the Li3PS4 (LPS) electrolyte results in a new ceramic electrolyte with the formulation Li7P2S8I, a coordinated material between LPS and LiI. This new formulation takes advantage of the chemical stability of LiI to render an electrolyte with excellent compatability with Li anode.

 
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