Background: Nothing could be more familiar than heat flow: switch the kettle on, and it soon produces a nice hot cup of coffee. Indeed, energy dynamics in the macroscopic world of our everyday experience is one of the oldest branches of physics – thermodynamics. But if we could ‘zoom in’ down to the level of the atoms of which matter is composed, we’d discover that how heat is generated and transferred from place to place involves the most intricate interplay between electrons, the vibrating atomic nuclei, even light, and the interactions among them. Thus, at the root of thermodynamics is a fascinating and very hard quantum many-body problem.
This is crucial in nanostructures, where quantum mechanics is essential and the vast simplifications of macroscopic thermodynamics no longer hold. Nanoscale electronic devices, the functionality of light-harvesting molecular systems, and thermoelectric operation for example all require a microscopic theory of energy dynamics.
The Project: This project aims to combine many-body theory for electron-electron interactions with a recent method for electron-phonon dynamics to analyse the interplay between the two in atomic-scale systems. This is challenging theoretical and computational work at the intersection between physics, chemistry and engineering, pulling together resources from different fields, with great potential pay-offs and benefits in terms of transferable experience and qualifications.
The Environment:The ASC works in one of the most dynamical areas in the physical sciences: the theory and simulation of molecules, liquids, solids and materials at the level of the constituent electrons and nuclei. Students in our group emerge with forefront knowledge in the theoretical and computational methods involved. This project will harness a range of themes covered by ASC, resulting in qualifications difficult to obtain otherwise, yet in high demand at the academia/industry interface.